By Justin Whitaker
CLAYTON — With the start of girls’ basketball sectionals less than a week away, last night’s game between Class 3A Tri-West and Class 2A Cascade served as a tune-up for both squads.
The Bruins shot 54 percent while holding the Cadets to 35 percent shooting in the 59-39 victory.
“In the first half especially we got off to a good start, got up on them early and always had the lead,” Tri-West coach Brad Acton said. “Not that you are ever comfortable but we were able to stretch that lead out.”
Cascade’s shooting woes hurt them from keeping up with Tri-West.
“We couldn’t hit early, we had a lot of looks inside and missed them,” Cascade coach Don Helmick said. “But I thought the effort was there and Tri-West is a good team.”
Tri-West’s 1-2 combo of Lauren DeSutter and Karen Jones combined for 41 of the Bruins’ 59 points and were main catalysts in the win.
DeSutter scored a game-high 22 points but the senior was overshadowed by her sophomore teammate.
Jones contributed 19 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks on 8 of 9 shooting to get the Bruins (15-5) rolling in what Acton said was her best game of the season.
“I thought there were times when she was stronger in the post than who was guarding her,” he said. “If our guards are knocking down some shots, it gives her more room to operate down in the post.”
On senior night, it was only fitting Cascade (13-7) was led by its senior leader, Brandyce Sallee. She was nursing a back injury and Helmick said she could have easily sat out but the senior refused. Sallee scored a team-high 21 points and scored eight of the Cadets’ 15 field goals.
“She’s just a player,” Helmick said.
Tri-West led 16-4 after the first quarter and 24-11 at halftime.
The Bruins built on the lead with a DeSutter 3-pointer and Cary Brown bucket to open the half. Cascade responded with 9-2 run, including five points from Sallee, to cut the deficit to 31-20.
Tri-West rallied back with eight unanswered including back-to-back steals and layups by DeSutter and Dani Waldeck to stretch the lead to 39-20.
After having only five field goals in the first half, the Cadets scored six alone in the third quarter.
“We were getting the same shots, they were just falling,” Helmick said.
Cascade’s press also forced five of the Bruins’ 21 turnovers in the third quarter.
“The press tries to speed you up, obviously they were behind, so it was hard to just kind of walk the ball up the court,” Acton said. “We didn’t attack it as well as we needed to.”
A 15-6 run between the third and fourth quarters by the Cadets pushed them within 10 points after an Audra Smallwood jumper. During the run, Smallwood scored seven points and Sallee added six.
But the Bruins bounced back again and ended the game with a 14-4 run.
“Every time they would get on a mini-run or looked like they were getting some momentum, I think we answered back which was good to see,” Acton said.
Tri-West has one game before the postseason begins against Southmont on Friday. With four straight wins, the Bruins are playing some of their best ball at the right time of the season.
“You want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the year,” Acton said. “We’ve played pretty well the last couple games.”
Cascade earned a first-round bye in sectionals and will not play until next Friday. The Cadets will meet either Monrovia, a team they lost to 46-42 earlier this season or Covenant Christian, a team they beat 54-45 this year, but eliminated Cascade two years ago from the postseason.
Not that extra motivation is needed for the tournament, but the Cadets will have some.
“We’re not going to go in like the past couple years where we beat this team by 20 points and now we think we are going to walk through it,” Helmick said. “Whoever we play, there will be that extra motivation because of the past.”