If it was solely the start, and not the finish, that was the deciding factor in a game's outcome, the Southwestern Lady Trojans would have walked off the court at Southwestern Central School on Thursday evening triumphant and happy.
Unfortunately, there's a lot more to it than that.
Outscored 47-14 over the final three periods of play, Southwestern was systematically de-energized and deflated not only by Olean's size down low, but also by its own inability to consistently put the ball in the hoop, until in the end the hosts suffered a 56-27 loss to the current Division 1 leaders.
Southwestern’s Jenna Yuchnitz drives to the basket during Thursday night’s Division 1 girls basketball game against Olean. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
"We didn't make shots and (Olean) was clogging up the lane pretty good," Southwestern coach Anne Beck said. "When you've got a couple of big girls like they do they play really good helpside defense, so our cutters that normally get open under the basket weren't. We'd kick the ball out but the shots just weren't going in."
Unable to get in close for easy buckets, Southwestern hit just 22 percent of its attempts from the field against Olean, which boasts a pair of 6-foot post players in Sara Ziegler and Maggie Moore, and were outrebounded 33-19, which made for a number of momentum-killing, one-and-done offensive trips.
"Against a team like that you get one shot," Beck said, "and very few offensive rebounds."
Save for the first quarter, when Southwestern came out firing on all cylinders on the way to building an early 13-9 advantage, that wasn't a problem for Olean with Moore and Ziegler patrolling the paint.
After the pair managed just five points over the contest's first eight minutes - thanks to some physical defense from Southwestern post players Mary Agarwala, who hauled in eight rebounds, and Emily Wuebbolt, who grabbed 11 boards - Olean refocused on feeding the ball to its bigs the rest of the way and the duo made the most of the opportunity.
Moore finished with a game-high 16 points (12 of which were made within 3 feet of the basket) to go along with nine rebounds and three blocks while Ziegler followed with 12 points. They were the lone Lady Huskies to reach double figures.
Together Moore and Ziegler accounted for eight of the first 10 points scored by Olean in the crucial second quarter, helping to convert a four-point deficit into a four-point advantage, 19-15, midway through the period. That solid work down low, combined with Southwestern's continued difficulties from the field, and the Lady Huskies, after being outplayed in the first frame, ended the half on a 13-2 run to capture a lead they would never relinquish, only expand.
"I knew they were going (to get Moore and Ziegler more involved after the first quarter) but we just didn't have good rotation," Beck explained of the Olean success in close. "We were supposed to double down when the ball got into the post, but that wasn't happening."
Southwestern, meanwhile, which was led by Jenna Yuchnitz's 10 points, managed just four points apiece in the second and third quarters and six in the fourth; and each successive, and seemingly easy, Olean basket from the paint did much to sap their remaining energy.
"We had more speed (in the first quarter)," Beck said, "but when they started making a couple of buckets that really took the energy out of us. We're in good enough shape, but I think we let (their success at the hoop) fatigue us more than it should have."
With the loss, Southwestern dropped to 4-7 overall and 3-4 in league while Olean remained atop the standings at 9-2 and 7-0. The Lady Trojans have another difficult contest on Jan. 24 when they travel to Dunkirk.
S. Ziegler 6 0 12, Painter 4 0 8, Moore 6 4 16, Spears 1 0 2, Bentelman 2 0 4, Stavish 1 0 3, Pearl 1 2 4, McKeown 1 0 2, Yanetsko 1 0 3, Ziegler 1 0 2. Totals 24 6 56.
Sullivan 2 3 7, Yuchnitz 3 4 10, Agarwala 0 1 1, Wuebbolt 2 1 5, Kubinski 1 0 2, Schutte 0 2 2. Totals 8 11 27.
3-point goals: Stavish, Yanetsko.
Olean9 17 16 14 - 56
Southwestern13 4 4 6 - 27
Jayvees: Olean 50, Southwestern 46.