Better ball control in the second and third quarters earned the Cross County girls a 12th straight win on Tuesday night. Erica Stratman led the Cougars with 11 points as Cross County defeated East Butler 42-32 for a second win over the Tigers in as many weeks.
The two sides met previously in the Crossroads Conference Tournament – a 52-32 victor for Cross County. In both, the second and third quarters proved to be crucial.
On Jan. 28, the Cougars allowed eight combined points in the frames before and after halftime. They gave up that exact number again on Tuesday.
A 22-17 advantage at the break ballooned to 34-20 at the end of the third.
“The big difference was that we started to take care of the ball and slowed down our fouls a little bit,” Cross County coach Mitch Boshart said. “East Butler does a good job of pressuring and using that press to score. Our half-court defense wasn’t too bad. So, once we started to take care of the ball better, it resulted in fewer fast-break opportunities for them.”
Cross Country trailed 12-9 after the first quarter thanks in large part to foul trouble. Starter Cortlyn Schaefer was whistled twice in the first quarter and spent much of the remaining first half on the bench. Fellow starter Josi Noble then picked up two in the second quarter and joined her.
Still, as Boshart mentioned, taking care of the ball made the biggest difference. With East Butler unable to run, Cross County held the Tigers to just five in the second quarter and three in the third.
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And while the foul trouble certainly played a part, so too did familiarity. Cross County and East Butler have played five times over the course of the last 365 days.
That limited normal scorers on both rosters. But perhaps the most significant was the Cougars holding Tiger senior Amanda Aerts to just seven points and one field goal.
“Aerts is a phenomenal guard. So, we put a lot of focus on containing her whether we were in zone or man-to-man,” Boshart said. “(Lexi) Haney did a good job of getting her shots. She’s a good shooter and made us pay with a couple of good 3s.”
Haney led East Butler wit 14 and sank three 3-pointers. She and Stratman were the only players in double figures.
Savannah Anderson and Schaefer both had eight for the Cougars, Jacy Mentik added seven, Avery Hanson chipped in five and Noble had three.
Cross County improved to 19-4 with the victory and have just one more game on the regular season schedule – Friday at home against Exeter-Milligan. The win was also the fourth straight on the road. The Cougars are 8-1 on the road this season.
For stats available over the past 14 years, 19 wins and 12 in a row are both the most for Cross County during that time span. The previous best win total was 15 last season and the longest win streak was seven in 2007-08.
“The focus remains ongoing one game at a time,” Boshart said. “It's been a stretch of road games that we've been on recently, so we're happy to get one more home game in Friday, and then we'll shift our focus to the sub-district. Anything happens in postseason play so you have to be ready for every opponent.”
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.