By Dan Karpiel
Defense has always been a staple of a Randy Earl-coached basketball team.
As Earl, the long-tenured Berthoud High School (BHS) girls coach, explained after Tuesday night’s 54-39 home floor win over Tri-Valley Conference (TVC) rival Erie: “We felt like we could defend them fairly well … for three quarters we pretty much did that, we defended them pretty well and they didn’t make very many baskets.”
Berthoud kept Erie in single digits in each of the game’s first three quarters, allowing the visiting Lady Tigers to make good on only five of their 26 shot attempts from the floor. Erie was able to get hot in the game’s final eight minutes, scoring 19 points on a five-of-12 shooting and a seven-for-nine effort from the free-throw line. But Berthoud matched with five field goals of their own to go with an eight-for-11 mark from the charity stripe that kept the home team’s lead at a comfortable margin.
“I’ve always focused on defense because I definitely think defense is what wins games,” Berthoud guard Ashlee Burdette said after the game. The junior swiped four steals and pulled down seven rebounds for the Lady Spartans on the evening while holding Erie’s second-leading scorer, guard Jade Phillips, to just three points, all from the foul line, through the first 24 minutes.
“I think lots of players get flustered if you put pressure on them non-stop, and that’s what I did, if you get up in their face they usually get flustered,” Burdette said.
Yet Burdette’s contributions to Berthoud’s winning their TVC opener were not limited to the defensive end of the floor. A pair of buckets, from very nearly the same spot on the floor on back-to-back possessions in the waning seconds of the third period, proved to be the dagger in the back of the Lady Tigers.
“I think it definitely flustered them,” Burdette said of her five points in 30 seconds that extended Berthoud’s lead from 31-18 to 36-18 late in the third. “We got down on offense faster than they got back on defense, and just seeing that open shot without someone in my face got those opportunities for me.”
Burdette was one of three Lady Spartans to hit double figures in scoring, with 11 points. Standouts Emily Cavey (16 points) and Sydney Meis (15) also reached double digits for Berthoud. Meis and Burdette each hit three-pointers in key moments for the Lady Spartans in the second quarter, helping push a 12-9 lead to a more-comfortable 23-12 lead by halftime. Cavey’s 10 points in the fourth period kept the Lady Tigers at arm’s length in crunch time.
When coupled with their solid defense, having multiple players contribute significant points on the offensive end is something Earl says his team will need to continue for a successful season as–unlike in the recent past–this year’s squad does not have a player who can be counted upon to hang 25-plus points on the board night in, night out.
Berthoud (7-3, 1-0) travels to Longmont for a matchup with Skyline on Friday night.