The Capital City Lady Cavaliers were unable to secure fifth place in their first ever Jefferson Bank Holiday Hoops Tournament appearance and lost to the St. Joseph Benton Lady Cardinals 50-28 on Wednesday.
Following the game, Capital City junior guard Natalie Allison was named to the all-tournament team after averaging almost 14 points per game. Kelsey Johnson and Andrea Simmons were named to the all-tournament team for Benton.
Capital City (6-7) was chasing Benton (7-4) all game after getting off to a slow start. Benton started the game with a high-level of intensity on defense and the Lady Cavaliers struggled to respond.
This allowed Benton to jump out to a 22-4 lead after the first quarter and 29-4 shortly into the second. Although the Lady Cavaliers’ offense was not at its best, coach Ashley Agee was pleased with how her team battled on the defensive end against a talented Benton team.
“I thought we did a great job defensively,” she said. “Holding a team like Benton, who made the Final Four last season, to 39 points in the first half and only 11 points in the second was something to be proud of.”
Benton started out the game with the same pressure defense it showed Blair Oaks on Tuesday that was really effective and led the way for a 60-32 win. It was equally as effective Wednesday and held Capital City to just 10 first half points. This allowed the Lady Cardinals to take a 39-10 lead into halftime.
“Offensively, we got to get better at running our stuff,” Agee said. “We got to get out in transition and get more points that way. As coaches, we have to figure out how to make that happen.”
The pressure defense turned this one into a very physical game. The teams combined for 27 fouls and every basket was earned inside the paint. The Lady Cavaliers easily could have given up when they fell behind in the first half, but they kept battling.
“At the beginning I dont think we handled the physicality of the game very well,” Agee said. “I was afraid, because of the score, that our girls might bow out a little bit, but they didn’t. I was very proud of our forward Jada Anderson. We have been preaching to her to turn and face the defender when she is in the post. She was able to do that today and draw fouls. We were really proud of her.”
In the second half, Capital City was able to turn up the pressure on defense itself and forced Benton into 11 second-half turnovers. This was a major reason why the Lady Cavaliers only gave up 11 points after halftime.
“We are starting to understand and read the ball and know where teams are going to go with the ball whenever we are in a zone,” Agee said. “We have played a lot more of that recently and the girls are really starting to figure itout. I thought Natiyah Ewing came in and played really well as a freshman for us. She got several of those steals going for us, getting in passing lanes. I was happy with us defensively today.”
With the game being lopsided in the second half, both coaches got a chance to give some of the younger girls more playing time. Agee was happy with how her role players responded to their bigger roles.
“If you look at our roster, most of our girls are younger,” she said. “It’s either sink or swim for them, and they are starting to not sink as much. They are starting to understand it and play at a higher level. To play in the CMAC conference that is what you are going to see and we are starting to understand that.”
After its first Holiday Hoops Tournament appearance, Capital City is looking to take what it learned into the second half of the season.
“Before Christmas is always kind of scary,” Agee said. “I think we have done a good job, but we just have to play at a high-level every single night. We are a little bit of a roller coaster team, you never know what you are going to get. We have to start being more consistent on the offensive side of the floor in games because we are about to hit our conference schedule where we face all Class 5 schools. We know it doesn’t get any easier from here.”