DIXON – Sterling and Dixon each went through long stretches Friday night when it simply could not put the ball in the basket.
The Golden Warriors discovered their shooing touch in the third quarter, however, and pulled away for a 39-28 victory over the Duchesses in Lancaster Gymnasium.
Sterling (5-3, 2-0 NIB-12 West) raced out to an 11-0 lead in the first 6 minutes, 40 seconds of play, then didn't score again until 1:30 had elapsed in the third quarter. When the Golden Warriors did score again, on a basket from from Kiarra Harris, it gave them a 13-12 lead.
"It's a good thing we played defense in that stretch," Sterling coach Julie Schroeder said. "I'm obviously upset at halftime in the fact we got shut out in the second quarter, but we only gave up 10 points in the first half."
Harris dropped in seven first-quarter points, then didn't attempt a shot in the second quarter while the rest of her teammates were a combined 0-for-12. A lengthy halftime speech by Schroeder that lasted right up until third-quarter play was set to begin contained one main theme: Get Harris involved.
Harris didn't shoot the ball much in the second half, when she converted both of her shot attempts, but she was the Warriors' first option.
"I always try to give it my best," said Harris, who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. "Usually if I'm inside, I'm going to go up and at least try to make something of it, and at least pump the team up."
"She makes a lot of really good things happen," Schroeder said, "and her teammates get in good places when she gets the ball. That's what I talked about at halftime. They went to a zone because they couldn't guard her, and then we didn't let her touch the ball. For our team to be successful, she's got to get touches."
Dixon (3-7, 1-1) didn't score until Darianne Edwards dropped in a basket with 1 minute left in the first quarter, but rallied to take a 13-12 lead on a short jumper from Maggie Bushman with 5:35 remaining in the third quarter.
Kacie Dillow heated up in the second half when she hit 4 of 5 field goal attempts to keep the Duchesses within shouting distance. She picked up her fifth foul, however, with 4:11 left in the fourth quarter and her team trailing just 29-24.
Dixon then struggled to find another option besides junior guard Brooke Bailey, and Sterling slowly took control.
"We had a kid waiting at the scorer's table to get her and it made it tough," Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said of Dillow's fifth foul. "It's one of those lessons early in the season we're still trying to learn. Really, I'm just proud of Kacie Dillow. She's a kid that's worked so hard on her game and you could see it in that third quarter."
Bailey (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Dillow (8 points) accounted for most of the Dixon offense. They were 8-for-22 from the field, while the rest of the team was a combined 3-for-17. Despite the slow start and overall wayward shooting, the Duchesses had a chance.
"We had one of those quarters where the ball just wouldn't bounce in the basket for us," Ravlin said, "and when you do that, you have to rely on your defense and you have to stay mentally tough. I thought our kids did that."
Stephanie Kester (9 points) and McKenna Pearson (8 points) backed Harris in scoring. Pearson also had four assists and three steals, Kaitlyn Bauer chipped in with six boards and five points.
Star of the game: Kiarra Harris, Sterling, 11 points, 9 rebounds
Key performers: Brooke Bailey, Dixon, 14 points; Stephanie Kester, Sterling, 9 points
Up next: Ottawa at Sterling; Dixon at LaSalle-Peru, both 7:30 p.m. Tuesday