LANSING | Santa Claus came a day late to the T.F. South girls basketball team, but the gift the Lady Rebels received was well worth the wait.
Senior guard Kaitlin Togtman’s team-high 18 points and junior guard Ninah Bertrand’s double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds allowed T.F. South to create a final-quarter surge after a slow start and defeat Thornridge 68-49 on Wednesday afternoon.
The Rebels entered the fourth quarter of the T.F. South Holiday Classic game tied with the Falcons at 38. However, after two lead changes early in the period, T.F. South proceeded to take the lead for good with a 21-2 run. The push was sparked in part by Togtman’s 3-pointer with 6:03 remaining, establishing a six-point lead for South (4-7).
“We were getting a change of momentum (at that point),” Togtman said. “We all moved the ball well and the offense came together.”
Although South shot just 43 percent from the floor overall, it connected on 71 percent of its attempts in the last eight minutes. Thornridge shot 28 percent.
While the Rebels hit their stride in the final quarter, they struggled to find it during the first three periods. No more than eight points separated South and Thornridge, and their sometimes-sluggish play resulted in seven ties and seven lead changes.
Rebels coach Steve Breshock attributed his team’s slow performance early in the contest to a lack of defense.
“If we play relaxed defense, we are relaxed on offense,” he said. “We decided to take it personally in the fourth and we did a good job of creating baskets.”
Bertrand also noticed the stronger defense her team played in the later stages of the contest and hoped that type of performance can be executed in future games.
“It helped us push the score (here),” she said of the improved defense. “Our goal is to continue winning games and we want to reach it.”
Thornridge came into the matchup without a single victory in its first four games, but the Falcons played aggressively and never lost sight of the Rebels prior to the latter’s clinching run. Thornridge received a lift from senior guard Oriana Williams, who scored 19 points, and juniors Camille Taylor and Brittany Wright, both of whom grabbed 10 rebounds.
Despite her team’s loss, Falcons coach Shajaunna Jordan believes her players will take a lot away from the game.
“We’re just trying to get everyone in the swing of playing with each other,” she said. “Now, (the girls) see they have to play with intensity.”