The Independence girls basketball team is putting in some extra work in the mornings and the results are being felt on Tuesday and Friday nights.
The Lady Eagles, members of talent-rich District 11-AAA, improved to 4-1 in the district by posting an impressive 65-51 road victory over rival Summit on Friday night.
Kayla Miller scored a game-high 18 points, and Lindsey Freeman and Jailyn Banks added 15 points each for the Lady Eagles (10-4), who are hovering near the top of the league standings.
Independence first-year head coach Bryan Glasner said the Lady Eagles have made some changes this season — to their mind-set and their work habits. The new approach appears to be making a major difference for a team that posted a 6-21 mark last season. Indy hasn’t produced a winning season since going 17-10 and reaching the Region 6-AAA semifinals in 2013.
“We are in the process of trying to change the culture,” said Glasner, who was an assistant for the Indy boys last season, “and this team has really bought into what we are trying to do. We’ve got some girls who are volunteering to come in at 6 in the morning for some extra shooting, and we’ve never had that before. I’m really proud of this group and they effort they are showing.”
Freeman, who came up with a key steal and converted it into a layup during a pivotal fourth-quarter sequence in Friday’s game, said the Lady Eagles are playing with confidence.
“Independence girls basketball in the past hasn’t been one of the strongest teams, so to speak,” said Freeman. “But this 4-1 start in district play has really given us some momentum as we move into (some big games ahead). … Tonight, we did a good job of spreading the ball around. We had three girls in double figures and some other girls who contributed, too.”
Indy’s victory was fueled by a strong fourth-quarter effort that enabled the Lady Eagles to pull away down the stretch. Indy closed the game on a 21-6 run in the final six minutes while transforming a one-point deficit into a convincing win.
Foul problems plagued the Lady Eagles much of the night, but they were able to persevere, thanks to some strong play from the bench. Indy was also buoyed by solid free throw shooting, converting 22-of-28 for the game.
Summit attacked from the perimeter much of the night, finishing with nine 3-pointers. Taylor Penning, who made four 3s, finished with 14 points. Marli Andersen also had 14 points and Megan Easterday added 13 for the Lady Spartans.
The game — which was played before a capacity crowd at Summit — featured 12 lead changes and a continuous stream of momentum changes.
The contest was tied at 40-40 at the end of the third quarter, and Summit owned a 45-44 lead after a bucket by Easterday with 5:58 remaining. Amy Tang answered roughly one minute later with a 3-pointer from the wing, giving Indy a 47-45 lead. Her jumper ignited a 9-0 run that gave the Lady Eagles a 53-45 lead with 3:16 remaining. Indy didn’t convert another field goal the rest of the way, but the Lady Eagles were able to expand their lead by going 12-of-16 at the foul line.
The strong finish helped the Lady Eagles overcome a rough start in which they endured several minutes of cold shooting and trailed by as many as nine points, 16-7, early in the second quarter.
“Part of it was just that we needed to calm down,” said Freeman. “Coach G just said we needed to relax — and we did. And then, once we started hitting some shots, we were able to get into a groove and we started playing with more confidence.”
The Summit boys basketball team enjoyed the way Friday’s game started. The Spartans liked the way it ended, too.
Trailing 20-13 in the second quarter, Indy put together an 11-2 run, which started with a 3-pointer by Noal Wiggins and was capped by a 3-pointer from AK Davis, to grab a 24-22 lead with 1:31 to play before halftime. Summit’s Anderson closed the second quarter with a pair of buckets, including a 3-pointer, to help the Lady Spartans carry a 27-26 lead into the locker room.
Indy then built a seven-point advantage midway through the third quarter, but a pair of deep 3s by Penning, followed by a bomb from Easterday, put Summit back in front, 40-38, late in the quarter.
At that point, it appeared the stage was set for some late-game drama. But Indy avoided any tense moments by taking controlling early in the fourth quarter and staying in front from there — much to the delight of the large Indy student section.
“Our crowd was great tonight,” said Freeman. “All of us loved it. It gave us an extra spark.”
Independence girls 65, Summit 51
IHS – 7 19 14 25 — 65
SHS – 14 13 13 11 — 51
IHS (65) – AK Davis 6, Noal Wiggins 5, Lindsay Freeman 17, Jailyn Banks 13, Emma Meinhardt 2, Amy Tang 8, Kayla Miller 16.
SHS (51) – Lily Driscol 3, Marlie Andersen 14, Taylor Penning 14, Sydney Wright 2, Megan Easterday 13, Nicole Rizane 5.
3-point goals — Indy 4 (Tang 2, Freeman, Wiggins). Summit 9 (Penning 4, Anderson 2, Driscol, Easterday, Rizane). Free throws — Indy 22-28, Summit 2-5.