COLUMBUS – Olentangy Berlin girls basketball coach Megan Beidelman couldn’t help but smile after the Bears’ 41-22 season-opening loss at Bishop Watterson in non-league play Monday night.
Seems odd to be smiling after a 19-point loss, but Beidelman was proud of the way her team responded after a slow offensive start.
“I’m so proud of them,” Beidelman said. “I think that’s a game that you can build off of. No one in that gym can say that we didn’t play hard and no one in that gym can say we didn’t play together.”
The Bears were held to four field goals in the first half and fell behind 20-8 at the break to a Watterson team that scored 70 points in its opener over Teays Valley on Friday and was a district finalist a season ago.
“We’re not going to have days like Friday very often,” Watterson coach Tom Woodford said. “If you miss a shot – a wide-open look – you have to look to the next one and not the last one. Quite often, we were (thinking about the last one).”
Beidelman knew that her team would be without last season’s leading scorer Jessica Nation, who suffered a torn ACL in the off-season. But it was another injury to freshman Ella Bishop Wednesday that put the offense even more in flux.
“Obviously that kills us and it breaks my heart for those girls because they work so hard,” Beidelman said. “But injuries are a thing, unfortunately, and it’s all about how you respond and both of those girls have the mentality to come back even stronger.
“But – as a team – we just have to pick up the slack. I think we’ll get there. It’s just a game at a time and a practice at a time.”
Berlin was solid on defense throughout, but particularly in the third quarter when it held the host Eagles (2-0) to two points for the first six minutes, 56 seconds of the frame.
The defensive effort turned into confidence on the offensive end and – more importantly – points.
Gwynne Kiener knocked down a mid-range jumper with 7:05 left for the first points of the quarter, Courtney Suchan added a basket a couple of minutes later and Kiener hit a pair of free throws after a Kiley Graham basket gave Watterson its only points during the stretch.
“I told them that we were a couple of baskets and a couple of stops away from being right in this game,” Beidelman said. “And we came out and scored on the first possession and got a couple of stops.”
“We missed a couple right around the basket,” Woodford said. “I think when that happens – it starts to get into your head a little bit. We got two point-blank looks early and missed them both. (Berlin) just picked things up.”
Maddie Goodman knocked down a free throw, Suchan added another basket and then fed Goodman for a three-pointer in the corner to cut Berlin’s deficit to 22-20 with 1:32 remaining in the third.
The Bear defense had two steals, a pair of blocked shots and pulled down 12 rebounds in the third quarter alone to keep Watterson at bay.
But Kiley Graham knocked down a three from the left wing with 1:03 remaining in the quarter and Brynn Mulligan buried a jumper from the right side with 27 seconds left to give the Eagles some breathing room and Berlin couldn’t recover.
Grace Cantwell knocked down a pair of threes in the second quarter to help the Eagles build their initial lead and Kilyn McGuff scored 10 of her game-high 14 points in the fourth quarter to help Watterson salt it away. McGuff finished with a team-high eight rebounds.
Goodman had eight points and added five rebounds, Suchan chipped in six points and six rebounds, Kiener finished with six points and Deanara Mbouge had eight rebounds to lead the Bears (0-1).
“I told her to own the paint and I think she’s taken that to heart,” Beidelman said of Mbouge. “On the defensive end – she dominates the boards. We just gotta get her confidence (up) on the offensive end and she’ll have a lot of success. The future is very bright for her.”
Berlin opens OCC-Cardinal play at Delaware Hayes on Dec. 3. Opening tip is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
From Saturday: Delaware Hayes 60, Licking Heights 47
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