SPIRIT LAKE - Fresh off a victory over previously undefeated Spencer, the 12th-ranked, 13-2 Spirit Lake girls exploded to an 18-1 lead in the first quarter on the way to a decisive 66-23 Lakes Conference win over youthful Cherokee hereon Jan. 30.
The Indians stormed to a 35-4 lead at halftime as their full-court defensive pressure took its toll on Cherokee playing with three freshmen in the lineup at most times. Spirit Lake led 59-10 heading into the final frame before Cherokee senior Misty Bruhn popped in three three-pointers to close the gap to respectabilty.
Bruhn led Cherokee's scoring with nine points, and freshman Taylor Woods added five. Julie Miller led the Washington High girls on the glass with four rebounds, and freshman Jackie Wilson registered three blocked shots.
Unable to properly execute the offense because of that defensive pressure, Cherokee sank just 11-27 field goals in the entire game for 41 percent. The Indians made 23-51 shots for 45 percent. The hosts also led in free throws, sinking 14-24 to Cherokee's 2-8.
"Once again, we got off to a very slow start," said Cherokee first-year coach Abby James. "We did OK defensively, but couldn't score. They pressed in the first half and limited our scoring opportunities. We had 18 turnovers in the first half and finished with 25. It's hard to win with that many turnovers.
"We didn't take care of the ball. We had poor passes and traveling calls. We had a good fourth quarter but by then it was too late. Maybe we need to play the fourth quarter first. We kept playing hard and took care of the ball in the fourth quarter. We started playing like we should, but it was too late."
Cherokee lost two valuable senior leaders several games ago when Kelsie Peterson and Lynn Carlson were sidelined with injuries.
James credited Wilson and Woods with superb defense to hold Spirit Lake's leading scorer and all-state post Amber Kirschbaum to just two field goals and six points in the game.