DIXON – The theme for both the Dixon Duchesses and Sterling Golden Warriors on Tuesday night at Lancaster Gym was “too fast.”
Both offenses struggled to find their perfect pace, and it led to Sterling turnovers and missed shots for Dixon. In the end, though, the Warriors’ defense made the difference in a 47-34 victory at Lancaster Gym.
“We got caught up in the game and just went a little too quick for ourselves,” Sterling senior Kiarra Harris said. “But we didn’t give up, and our defense was the big key tonight. We didn’t let them take advantage of our turnovers.”
Sterling (2-0) had 15 of its 23 turnovers in the second half, but Dixon (0-2) managed just two points directly off those miscues. Those came on Katie Provo’s coast-to-coast steal and layup with 22.4 seconds left in the game.
“We needed to slow down and get into the flow of the game,” Dixon coach Luke Ravlin said. “We had our chances, but Sterling is a tough team, and they used their strengths well tonight.”
Those strengths included the Warriors’ height in the post and athleticism around the perimeter. While Harris (12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 1 block) and Kaitlyn Bauer (10 points, 4 rebounds) did damage down low, Gabby Sandoval (16 points) hit some big third-quarter 3s and chased Dixon standout Brooke Bailey around most of the night.
Bailey, who signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at Truman State in Kirksville, Mo., on Tuesday afternoon, attempted all but six of Dixon’s 22 first-half shots, but struggled to find the bottom of the net. She finished with a game-high 19 points, but it came on 7-for-23 shooting; she hit all four of her free throws.
“Our shots weren’t going in like we wanted, and mine especially weren’t going in,” said Bailey, who also had three assists, three steals and Dixon’s lone block. “We executed well on defense, but our offense couldn’t get it going.”
“We wanted to make sure Brooke didn’t get an easy shots,” Sandoval said, “and we had some great help defense on her tonight.”
Sterling closed the first quarter on a 9-2 run, capped by Halie Robinson’s 3-pointer with 10 seconds left. The Warriors opened the second period with a 10-0 spurt, building a 23-8 lead with 3:45 left before halftime.
It proved to be a hole the Duchesses couldn’t dig out of. Dixon got no closer than nine points the rest of the way, despite plenty of opportunities.
“If we make shots, there’s a totally different feeling in the gym and for the game,” Bailey said. “We started getting the ball into the post in the second half, and I thought we showed glimpses of what our offense will be able to do.
“But tonight was just our second game, and we’ll grow from this and get some scoring to go with out steady defense.”
The best chance came in the third quarter, when Sterling started turning the ball over. Bailey’s up-and-under move and a Carly Hartle free throw cut Sterling’s lead to 29-19, but Harris found Bauer on a pretty fast-break pass for a layup, then Sandoval nailed a 3 near the top of the key to push the margin back to 34-19.
The next 4 minutes belonged to the Duchesses, as Sterling went scoreless. But Dixon managed only six points in the stretch, on a Bailey pull-up jumper in the lane, a Hartle post bucket off a Bailey pass, and two free throws by Isabelle Shiaras.
And when Sandoval buried another 3 near the top of the key in the final minute of the third period, Sterling stretched its lead back to 37-25 and never looked back. The Warriors shot 17-for-31 from the field (54.8 percent), and had 12 fast-break points to Dixon’s two.
“We all knew with Stephanie [Kester] being gone, we had a lot of 3-point shooting to replace,” Sandoval said. “But everybody on the team is trying to pick up a little bit of the slack, and we hit some big outside shots tonight.”
Sterling 47, Dixon 34
Star of the game: Kiarra Harris, Sterling, 12 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, block
Key performers: Gabby Sandoval, Sterling, 16 points, 3 rebounds; Kaitlyn Bauer, Sterling, 10 points, 4 rebounds; Brooke Bailey, Dixon, 19 points, 3 assists, 3 steals, block; Carly Hartle, Dixon, 6 points, 4 rebounds
Up next: Sherrard at Sterling, 7 p.m. Thursday; Rock Falls at Dixon, 7:30 p.m. Thursday