GRIFFITH | A long road trip and a few wrong turns on the way home resulted in West Side’s girls basketball team arriving home after 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Instead of an afternoon nap, a game at Griffith waited Thursday night.
The Times No. 2 Cougars, however, didn’t lack energy in their tilt against the Panthers and stormed to a 16-0 lead at the start of the game and powered to a 57-27 win in nonconference action.
“We came out with a lot of energy, and I was very pleased with the way we started the game,” West Side coach Rod Fisher said. “The girls know why we schedule back-to-back games — to get ready for February.”
Wednesday’s six-point loss to Elkhart Memorial didn’t dampen any moods at West Side. The Cougars (14-3) blew the game open with six first-quarter points each from Mariah Hopkins and Lexus Fox, whose aggressive play underneath was overpowering for the Panthers.
“It was pretty obvious we weren’t ready to play from the beginning and that they’re very athletic,” Griffith coach Tom Golumbeck said. “We threw everything we had at them defensively. And people don’t realize that they are a pretty good team defensively with all that athleticism and length.”
While Hopkins, Fox and Tinon Hunter were putting back their own misses as well as those of their teammates, Griffith struggled to find open shots.
Panthers senior Taylor Austin, who tied Fox for game high with 13 points, scored with 1:25 to go in the first to break Griffith’s drought.
West Side’s Tyeisha Hunter hit a 3-pointer in the final second of the first half to send the Cougars into the break with a 29-8 lead.
Fox put back her own miss and drew a foul at the buzzer to end the third quarter, then converted the free throw to put her team up 49-16.
“She’s very athletic but not a complete player yet,” Fisher said. “At the beginning of the season she was a spark off the bench, but the last few weeks she’s just recently begun starting for us, and she’s doing well.”
Lessia Smith had all nine of her points in the third for West Side, and Dejah Joshua tied Hopkins with eight points in a balanced West Side effort.
The Panthers (11-7) got six points from Sammi Adams in a fourth quarter in which they outscored the Cougars 11-8.
“The second half we played a little harder,” Golumbeck said. “We’re always trying to make improvements because we could run into someone like that down the road in the tournament.”