There is an oft-used cliche used in sports – it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
For the Truman girls basketball team, it was mostly the opposite of that adage in regard to its home game against Liberty North Monday.
The Patriots got off to a hot start, scoring 14 points before the Eagles were able to notch a single point. North outscored them the rest of the way, but Truman was able to hold off its Suburban Big Six conference foe in a 48-36 victory.
The Patriots utilized a zone press which gave North fits all game long and resulted in six steals during the key 14-0 spurt.
Prolific shooters Erin Davis (11 points) and Brodi Byrd (14 points) combined for a trio of 3-pointers during that stretch and Kaylie Simonds ended it by knifing through two defenders and converting a driving layup to give her team the comfortable advantage.
“We need to work on getting the ball around faster and work the offense more,” Davis said. “But the quick shots are pretty good if we make them. It’s pretty deadly if we have the shooters.”
The Patriots (12-5) went into the second period up 18-6 and led 26-17 at halftime as Davis and Becca Gilpin added a trey each to keep Truman afloat. Truman’s defense played a huge part in its first-half success as it forced 14 of the Eagles’ 19 turnovers in the first half.
“We tried to keep them out of the middle of the floor so they don’t push it,” Davis said. “We tried to force them to the side and kept an eye on their post players.”
It was a defensive struggle in the third as well with North outscoring the Patriots 4-3 to close the gap to 29-21 going into the final period.
The Eagles got as close as six points when Destiny Ojigoh made a driving floater to make it 30-24 early in the fourth. But another Davis 3-pointer and a fast-break layup from Byrd quickly put Truman ahead 36-24. Byrd made 6 of 6 free throws down the stretch and Deon Monroe hit a pair to help keep the cushion at double digits the rest of the way.
“We got off to a quick start and our defense was a catalyst for that,” Truman coach Steve Cassity said. “Then in the third quarter we kind of stagnated and got into a little bit of foul trouble. I was still a little disappointed that we didn’t keep that momentum into the second and third quarter. But our fourth quarter was strong. We were able to step up our defensive pressure again in the fourth.”
Truman shot 6 of 14 from the free throw line before Monroe, who had 10 points, and Byrd combined to make the final eight. The team shot 6-for-14 behind the arc, which made up for its initial poor free throw shooting and being outrebounded by the Eagles.
“The 3-point game has definitely been one of our strengths,” Byrd said. “Me, Erin and Becca Gilpin are good at shooting them. When there is a bunch of big girls in the inside, it’s really good to have that as a big part of our game.”