Pirates catch NHS cagers off-guard
By Jesse Phelps
It wasn't the ideal beginning.
The Nordhoff girls' varsity basketball team took the floor at
home for its season opener on Tuesday night against a Santa Ynez
squad. It was the same squad that NHS soundly beat over the summer,
and yet the Rangers proceeded to play as if it were the first
time together since last season.
The Pirates beat the Rangers, 57-48, behind the hot shooting
of the Gnekow sisters, Briana and Ariana, and dominant inside
play from center Lindsay Demery, who earned 16 free throws by
consistently taking the ball to the hoop, many on second chances.
The Rangers, on the other hand, relied on the outside shot. For
much of the night, it wasn't falling. The team finished six of
26 (23 percent) from three-point range and just two of 11 in
the first half, when it fell behind by as much as 12 points heading
into the break.
In the third, Nordhoff suffered a rash of turnovers, which left
it staring at a 38-21 deficit, their largest of the game. Briana
Gnekow, who scored 15 points, hit two threes during the stretch.
Nordhoff answered with an
8-0 spurt toward the end of the third and went into the fourth,
trailing by just nine after Sarah Lagos, Alexis Kenyon and Sarah
Nylander all hit threes.
Still with the momentum at the start of the final period, Nordhoff
turned up the pressure defense and forced several turnovers by
An Alison Bennett hoop off a nice assist from Tahnie Benitez
trimmed the lead to seven. Then the Rangers went cold once again,
failing to score for over three minutes. Two free throws by Kenyon
ended the drought and when Bennett (six points, 11 rebounds)
scored again from the baseline, the Rangers pulled to within
Moments later, Megan Swann's putback made it 46-40, but that
was as close the Rangers would get.
Nordhoff was forced to foul to stop the clock and two late threes
by Swann and Nylander couldn't offset the Pirates' output from
the charity stripe.
A poor start forced Nordhoff to play catch-up all night. All-league
center Bennett picked up two quick fouls in the first two minutes
of the game and the Rangers turned the ball over three times
to gift the Pirates with an immediate 8-0 lead.
Johanna Rothermel led Nordhoff on the defensive end, grabbing
nine rebounds to go with four steals and four blocked shots.
On offense, two bright spots were the play of Nylander, who scored
14 points, including three three-pointers, and Swann, who scored
10 points on four of six, shooting in her first varsity game.
Nylander also tallied four rebounds and seven steals and Swann
notched four boards, four assists, a steal and a block.
Not only was Bennett hampered by foul trouble, but she had to
work to find spaces in the paint, with Demery looming around
the hoop defensively. Demery finished with 18 rebounds and eight
"She blocked a couple of shots early," said Nordhoff
coach Ted Cotti, "and I think we were a little intimidated
after that. We'll need to work on getting the ball inside more."
Rothermel said she thinks the Rangers will be fine but that on
this night the shots just weren't going down. The Rangers shot
just 18 of 69, or 26 percent, for the game.
Said Cotti, "This was a good test for us. This is a team
we'll need to defeat in the play-offs."
The game also served as a tune-up for the Westlake Tournament,
which started Wednesday, and ends tomorrow.
In junior varsity action preceding the varsity showdown, Nordhoff
lost a closer one. Chelsea Boatman led the Rangers in defeat,
scoring seven points and collecting six steals in the 31-28 win
for Santa Ynez.
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