BELOIT -Just a few days from facing Rock Valley Conference foe Evansville, Beloit Turner head coach Nick Faralli decided the matchup, particularly with Blue Devil star Paige Banks, was just too scary.
"We've always been a strictly man-to-man team," Faralli said. "But the matchups were tricky for us with their size and Banks' athletic ability. She's as good as we have in the Rock Valley Conference. I wasn't sure who we had to put on Banks. Liv (Olivia Tinder) could handle it, but what if she picked up two quick fouls?"
Instead, Faralli had his Trojans work on a zone for two days in practice and it turned out to be crucial in their 64-53 victory.
"They're a good team with good size and we weren't hurt on the glass," the coach said. "With just two days to prep the defense, I'm really proud of them for the way they executed it."
The Trojans held Banks to 14 points, Tinder stayed out of foul trouble and scored a game-high 20 as the hosts overcame a rough night at the free-throw line (13-of-30) to post a confidence-boosting victory.
With a pair of juniors - 6-foot Baylee Windsor and 5-9 Marlee Young -- clogging the middle, the Trojans opened up a 30-15 lead in the first half.
The Blue Devils answered with Banks punching a few holes in the zone, hitting three 3-pointers, and helping her team finish on a 14-1 run to draw within 32-29.
"At halftime we had to hand it to them for hitting some tough shots," Tinder said. "Overall, we thought we were playing pretty well as a team and everyone was contributing."
Faralli told his team to just take a deep breath and go on.
"Banks is such a good player," the coach said. "We knew they were going to make a run. Halftime came at the right time. We were still ahead and we just had to get back to the basics and finding Banks. We lost track of her a few times at the end of the first half and she made us pay. In the second half we were much better keeping track of her and playing defense in general."
Evansville did score the first basket of the second half to make it a one-point game, but Peyton Hasse hit a trey and Tinder scored on a pair of drives to push it back to eight. Tinder went on to score 13 second-half points,
"We had balanced scoring in the first half," Faralli said. "We hit a lull in the second half and Liv just picked it up for us. Sometimes she is going to have to do the heavy lifting for us. She did a great job finding gaps, being patient and not forcing the action but taking advantage of whatever opportunities she had. She really carried us for a stretch there. That was big for us to get the lead back to double figures and feel good about ourselves.""
The Trojans' Mara Fowler converted 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch to keep Evansville at bay.
"She's a senior and she did a great job there," Faralli said.
Fowler finished with 11 points and Windsor chipped in eight and Young seven.
"When everyone is contributing our offense is difficult to defend," Tinder said. "It helps me, too, because I get more open looks. But if my teammates are hitting shots, that's fine with me."
• BOXSCORE: Beloit Turner 64, Evansville 53.
EVANSVILLE (fg ft-fta pts) - Hinkle 1 0-0 3, Rinehart 1 1-2 3, Hazard 1 0-0 3, Fillner 1 2-2 4, Sendelbach 0 0-2 0, Efflemoff 5 0-2 10, Miller 5 0-2 10, Wagner 2 1-2 5, Tofte 1 0-0 3, Banks 5 1-4 14, Bush 3 1-2 8. Totals: 20 6-16 53.
BELOIT TURNER (fg ft-fta pts) - Fitzgerald 2 1-6 5, Fowler 2 5-8 11, Young 3 1-7 7, Windsor 3 2-4 8, Njoo 2 0-0 6, Tinder 8 4-5 20, Hasse 1 0-0 3, Gaziano 2 0-0 4. Totals: 23 13-30 64.
Evansville.....29 24 - 53
Beloit Turner...32 32 - 64
3-pt. goals - Evansville 7 (Banks 3, Bush, Tofte, Hazard, Hinkle), Turner 5 (Fowler 2, Njoo 2, Hasse). Fouled out - Efflemoff. Total fouls - Evansville 24, Turner 12.