Tuesday’s girls basketball game between St. Mary’s and Legacy pitted a team that is high on experience against one that is mostly inexperienced.
And it showed.
The veteran Saints dominated from the start in their 70-36 Class A West Region victory at the Events Center. Taylor Gerving and Tonya Dvorak scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the first half as St. Mary’s rolled to a 41-18 advantage. The Saints maintained at least a 21-point lead in the final 18 minutes.
The victory raised St. Mary’s record to 5-0 -- the program's best start in years.
“I’m not sure how long it’s been since St. Mary’s has started this good, but I know it’s been a long, long time,” said Dvorak, a 6-foot-1 senior forward. “We’re playing amazing basketball right now and it’s really exciting. We have high expectations this year, and so far things have been going really well.”
Dvorak was part of a balanced St. Mary’s scoring attack, netting 13 points on two 2-point field goals and three 3-pointers. Sydney Smith and Gerving added 17 and 14 points, respectively, for the Saints, who put 11 players in the scoring column. Seven scored in the first half.
Dvorak said balanced scoring and strong bench play have been constants in St. Mary’s 5-0 start.
“We’ve done a great job sharing the ball, and we have so much confidence in our bench,” she said. “Any one of our starters can score in double figures, and we trust our bench players like we trust our starters. Depth has been one our strengths this year.”
So has defense. For the fourth time in five games, the Saints held an opponent to 41 points or less.
“Our focus is to be the best defensive team in the West Region. We work really hard on our defense every day,” said Dvorak, who also had seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. “There is such a big difference between this year and last year. We think we have a good offensive team, but we know defense is what’s going to win the big games.”
The Saints started slow on Tuesday, netting only two of their first 10 shots, but still led 5-2. After Smith scored to make it 7-2, it snowballed. It was 11-6 St. Mary’s before the Saints put together a 14-4 run that made it 25-10 with 7:08 remaining. Gerving scored seven points and Marriann Senftner converted a pair of offensive rebounds into five points to highlight the run. Later, Dvorak (7) and Gerving (5) accounted for all of the points in a half-ending 12-2 run.
“We really clicked on both ends of the floor,” Dvorak said. “Our shots weren’t falling early on, but we kept at it and turned it around. We also rebounded well and our defense played great.”
Legacy coach Jim Petrik, who guided the Sabers to the Class A state championship last season, said the growing pains were plain to see on Tuesday.
“We knew that St. Mary’s would be a tough matchup, but I was really disappointed in the effort tonight,” said Petrik, whose team fell to 1-4. “I know we’re a young team, but I expected a better effort, especially on defense. We need to learn from this and move on.”
Whitney Thomas led the Sabers with 14 points.
St. Mary’s 5-0 start has been impressive, but Dvorak said there is still plenty of work to be done.
“You can always be better. We can shoot better, defend better and rebound better,” she said. “You can never be content. We’re still a long way from where we would like to be.”
A dominant second half powered the Legacy boys to their first victory of the season.
After trailing 36-27 at halftime, the Sabers put 48 points on the board in the final 18 minutes to post a 75-66 win over St. Mary's in the boys game.
Jason Hoekstra scored 16 points and Rhett Clements and Austin Wolf each added 11 to pace Legacy's second-half assault.
"We had good shots in the first half, but they weren't falling. Our kids just had to see a few fall and they go their confidence back," said Legacy coach Jason Horner. "It got to be contagious. I thought we executed so much better and we did a great job sharing the ball. Give the kids credit. Being 0-4 and down by nine points at halftime it would have been easy to pack it in. But there was a different kind of energy in the second half. The kids responded in a big way."
Legacy took control after Cole Gendreau's sixth 3-pointer of the game put the Saints up 39-27 in the opening minute of the second half. A Devin Beck basket started a 16-2 run that Rhett Clements finished off with two tie-breaking free throws with 12:43 remaining. It was 46-46 before an 8-0 Legacy run made it 54-46 with 9:40 left.
Five straight points by Gendreau pulled the Saints within three, 54-51, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Hoekstra and Beck highlighted an 11-2 run that extended Legacy's lead to 12, 65-53.
The Saints trimmed the deficit to three, 65-62, with 2:39 remaining, but couldn't get closer. The Sabers, whose previous single-game high this season was 49 points, went 6-for-6 from the charity stripe in the final 1:30 to help salt it away.
Hoekstra finished with 26 points. Clements totaled 15, Wolf 13 and Beck 12.
"That's the kind of balance we're hoping for," Horner said. "We didn't rely on one or two kids to carry the load."
The Legacy victory overshadowed an outstanding performance by Gendreau, who led all scorers with 34 points -- 24 on eight 3-pointers. The senior guard tallied 19 points in the first half, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that gave the Saints a 36-27 lead.
The Saints fell to 0-6.