Defensive-minded Lady Cougars finding success
If the old saying “defense wins championships” turns out to be true, Tim Bonner is off to a good start in his first season leading the Carlynton girls basketball team.
The Lady Cougars have been fierce on the defensive end of the court, surrendering only 32.8 points per game.
“We have only allowed three teams to hit 40,” Bonner said. “No one has hit 50 on us. Our defense is our strength. If we can get the offense to execute and hit some shots, we will make at the playoffs.”
The offense has struggled at times during the season, leading Carlynton to a 6-6 mark.
“We have struggled to finish easy shots,” Bonner said. “Once we start making the shots, it helps the confidence and enthusiasm. Confidence is everything. We need to continue working on finishing and working the offense properly. And we need to avoid silly turnovers.”
While Carlynton has struggled to find consistency on the offensive end of the court, it seemed to have no problems defeating Freedom, 57-38, last week in Section 6-AA action.
Freedom led, 9-8 after the first quarter and built the lead to as many as five points in the second. But Carlynton rallied late in the second frame. Trailing, 20-16, senior forward Rose Doyle connected on a jump shot to pull within two. Sophomore guard Jordan Melko added four points in the final minute to give Carlynton a 22-20 lead — its first since late in the first quarter — heading into halftime.
The offensive success from the second quarter rolled into the third as junior guard Hannah Murray connected on a jumper and Melko scored six straight points to put the Lady Cougars up, 30-20.
The double-digit lead was all Carlynton needed for the win. Melko led the team with 20 points. Murray added 12, and Doyle finished with 11.
The 57 points scored against Freedom were a season-high for Carlynton. The previous high was 51 points scored during a 22-point win over Burgettstown.
The offensive production was boosted by the high level of play from Melko and Murray, the only underclassmen in the starting five. The two guards have shown the ability to be offensive threats and can give Carlynton the boost it needs.
“(Murray) we let go and create her shot, because she does a nice job,” Bonner said. “(Melko) is getting better and better every day. She is very athletic. She rebounds like a beast and can be an offensive force.”
The rest of the starting five is filled with the team's seniors — Doyle, forward Lejla Isak and guard Amanda Dodd. Bonner didn't shy away from giving credit to the seniors for helping his first-year transition go smoothly.
“Boy, I wish I had them another season,” Bonner said. “They are good players and great kids. They work hard and keep the team up. They do all the little things. All three have shown great leadership this season.”
The Lady Cougars are not very deep this season, only using three players off the bench. Bonner would like to use more players, but inexperience and injuries are working against the team.
The Lady Cougars have battled the injury bug this season. The biggest hit may have been to Connor Richardson. The sophomore guard showed great potential last season but has been sidelined with a knee injury.
“We are going to leave it up to her doctors, her parents and how she feels,” Bonner said. “If she has to sit out the year, that's fine. We don't want to rush it.
“She is only a sophomore and has two more years. She is a great player when she is healthy.”
The Lady Cougars are also extremely young. The 17-player roster features five sophomores and seven freshmen — numbers that bode well for the future but create a lack of depth currently.
“We are just so young,” Bonner said. “The freshmen are all going to get better, and we're looking forward to the future.”
The win over Freedom last week put the Lady Cougars in a fourth-place tie with Avonworth in the Section 6-AA standings. The teams trail Beaver (6-0), Our Lady of Sacred Heart (4-1) and Freedom (3-2).
If the Lady Cougars can keep winning, they might end the playoff drought that has hounded them since 2004.
“If we beat the teams we should, we control our own destiny,” Bonner said.
Carlynton returns to action tonight, Thursday, as it travels to Our Lady of Sacred Heart. The tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-388-5813.