Getting a bit defensive: Despite big win, Central vows to improve defense

Central’s Haleigh Higgins drives to the basket past the defense of Rifle’s Courtney Cordova on Tuesday night in the Warriors’ 71-30 victory. Higgins scored 14 points and had six rebounds in the victory.

It’s easy to assume a team’s expectations are high when after a lopsided win, the main concern is defense.

Tuesday night at Central High School, the Warriors girls basketball team opened up their season with a 71-30 victory over Rifle.

Now for most teams, holding an opponent to 30 points is a great accomplishment, but for a Central team with lofty aspirations, there was a lot to improve on.

“We have to work on our defense,” Central guard Stacey Kinnett said. “We need to help more. It was a good offensive game, but defense is now the main focus.”

Central held the Bears to three single-digit quarters, but that doesn’t mean Rifle wasn’t able to attack the basket. The Bears were able to penetrate the Warriors’ defense and work their way into the paint with solid ball-handlers like Makayla Wilkins, Courtney Cordova and Ciara Euler.

“I thought they gave us a good test,” Central coach Todd Dixon said. “They had some girls that drove pretty well, and I thought that was a good warm-up for us.”

Central plays an aggressive man-to-man defense highlighted by four starters that are 5-foot-10 or taller. Dixon said one of the most important aspects of the Warriors’ defensive philosophy is help defense.

“Our rule is to be an arm length away from who you’re guarding, and that goes with the help defense we are preaching,” Dixon said. “I don’t care how slow you are, force them to make a decision and everyone else has got your back.”

The Warriors’ defense did have its high points. Central outscored Rifle 19-4 in the second quarter to take a 35-11 halftime lead. Central also held the Bears to six points in the fourth quarter.

Offensively, Central clicked from the opening tip-off as Amy Kame and Haleigh Higgins combined to score all of the Warriors’ 16 first-quarter points. Kame scored a game-high 30 points.

“I think we are where we want to be,” Kame said. “Everyone’s working hard and I think it showed tonight because even when things aren’t jelling, we still worked hard.”

Kame had a impressive showing in the first game of the year. In addition to her 30 points, she added eight assists, eight rebounds and seven steals. With the Warriors having no true point guard, Kame is having to share the ball-handling role.

“I’m looking to be a leader and run the offense,” Kame said. “But right now we are focusing a lot on our defense, and our offense will come from our defense.”

Central also had strong efforts from Kinnett, who had 13 points, and post player Higgins, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds.

On the other side of the court, Rifle has the talent to be a top team in the Western Slope League, but was overwhelmed by Central’s size and speed. Euler led the team with nine points.

“We didn’t do very good,” Euler said. “We are a running team, but we didn’t play our game.”

Central’s next test is another 4A WSL, Glenwood Springs at home Tuesday.

“We came out with a lot of confidence,” Dixon said. “We wanted to send a message that this is how hard we are going to play.”


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