New Marietta head basketball coach Ryan McClain spent the preseason trying to instill into his team a “defense first” mentality.
Judging from their first game of the season, the Tiger girls are buying into what their coach is selling them, as they put on a defensive clinic in the first quarter and then went on to rout the Alexander Spartans, 77-24, in their season opener Monday night at Sutton Gymnasium.
The Tigers relentless pressure defense forced the Spartans into 17 first quarter turnovers, as Marietta jumped out to a 17-0 lead.
“Last year at Ben Logan, we kept teams to 33 points per game, and I wanted to bring that here,” said McClain. “I know we can score, and I know we have the talent on offense, but it’s point blank defense first for me,”
The defensive performance continued into the second quarter before Alexander finally converted their first field goal of the game with a little more than five minutes to play in the half.
To show just how potent the orange and black defense was in the early going, it forced Alexander into turning the ball over on 23 of its first 26 possessions.
“It’s a little bit of old school basketball, but we are going to get after it,” said McCain, whose team forced Alexander into 34 turnovers on the night. “We kind of set the tone the other night against Warren in the preview game, and we played a little nervous at the beginning, and although we are still not fully happy with the defense, it’s getting there.”
All of that pressure defense resulted in a lot of easy buckets in transition for the Tigers, who shot an outstanding 57 percent from the floor.
The Tigers stretched that lead to 25-0 in the second quarter before Alexander finally got on the board on a basket by sophomore McKenna Moore.
Marietta answered with back-to-back triples by sophomore Alyssa Baker, as they continued to add to their lead.
Three-pointers on consecutive possessions later in the second quarter from juniors Julia Tucker and Saylor Wharff pushed the lead to 30, and the Tigers went on to hold a 41-10 lead at the intermission.
McClain feels like he has a deep roster and that team depth was on display as ten different Tigers girls scored at least a basket.
“We have at least nine strong kids that we can count on night after night that we trust and can go to,” said McClain.
Tiger sophomore Leigha Lauer led all scorers with 20 points while also coming up with 10 steals, while Baker added 14 points and a team-high four rebounds.
Wharff and Tiger senior Riley Kendall added 10 points apiece while junior Aysia Burke came off the bench to score nine.
Alexander got eight points apiece from Moore and sophomore Kaylee Johnson.
It’s hard to imagine a better beginning for McClain and the young Tiger girls.
“It’s nice for sure. You’re always kind of worried about getting that first one,” said McClain. “I’m really proud of the girls, and it was a total team effort.”
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