LONDON GROVE >> The Bishop Shanahan girls discovered during Thursday’s basketball outing at Avon Grove that a tenacious defense can make up for other deficiencies.
As for Red Devils’ head coach Bart O’Connor, he just hopes that his team’s 38-17 setback to the visiting Eagles in Ches-Mont action was more about first-game jitters than anything else. That’s because Avon Grove’s offensive performance was, well, offensive.
“Credit goes to Shanahan,” he said. “They played well and took us out of it with their defense.”
Shanahan easily improved to 2-0 on the season thanks to a suffocating three-quarter court press that wound up forcing 18 turnovers in the first half and 32 by game’s end. Sure, the Eagles didn’t shoot it well – especially from the perimeter – but with all of the extra possessions it didn’t matter.
“I liked our energy and it showed on defense,” said Shanahan head coach Jim Powers.
“We are not putting the ball in the basket right now in our half-court set, so we are hoping the turnovers can create some opportunities until we get our legs under us.”
It worked like a charm on Thursday. The Devils (0-1) committed 10 turnovers before scoring their first point, and eventually trailed 26-4 at the break. The stats showed that Avon Grove had nine times as many first half turnovers as field goals, and it certainly didn’t help that starting point guard Molly O’Connor missed the game with an injury.
“The turnovers were horrible – we couldn’t take care of the ball,” Bart O’Connor said. “We couldn’t even get into the offensive zone to run a play.
“The girls are a little frustrated and so am I with our offense, but at the end of the day, if you can’t get it past half court, you aren’t going to be doing much scoring.”
At the other end, the Devils played well defensively, especially with a zone defense that limited the Eagles to just one made three-pointer in the opening half. But Powers is quick to point out that his team simply missed a lot of open shots.
“We had some good looks and a lot of balls rimmed-put on us,” he said.
“(Perimeter shooting) is a big part of what we do. I was not upset with the looks. They just didn’t go in. But it’s early in the season and I’m hoping our offense will get into a better flow as we continue to work.”
Avon Grove actually outscored Shanahan 13-12 in the second half, but finished with just five total made buckets. The Devils did get to the free throw line 15 times in the second half (compared to zero times in the first) but only knocked down six of them.
“Our problem wasn’t on defense, but we had to go man-to-man when we were down by so much,” O’Connor explained.
“And when we did break (their pressure) we were forcing bad passes. We are going to fix it — the girls just need to believe. I told them not to quit on each other or themselves. I put a lot of offensive sets in and I’m not sure they believe in those sets yet.”
The Eagles top three scorers all came off the bench, with Sammy Blumenthal and Alyssa Brown leading the way with seven apiece. Alexa Bojko chipped in six.
“We have a deep team and everyone has somebody to push them in practice,” said Shanahan senior guard Faith McHugh. “That makes us better.
“We were more aggressive than in the opener, and we seem to be getting our chemistry going. Our perimeter shooting is going to come in time.”
Until that happens, there is always the defense to fall back on.
“We are good at staying on top of opponents and our energy is certainly there,” McHugh said.
“It worked pretty well against Sun Valley (on Tuesday) and we actually cleaned up some stuff tonight,” Powers added. “Once they get it down, it is going to help us.”
Bishop Shanahan 38, Avon Grove 17
BISHOP SHANAHAN: Petruno 2 0-0 5; Wankmiller 1 0-0 2; McHugh 1 2-2 4; Brown 3 1-1 7; Bojko 2 0-0 6; Callahan 0 0-2 0; Sendi 1 0-0 2; A. Blumenthal 0 2-2 2; Donahue 1 1-2 3; S, Blumenthal 3 1-2 7. Totals 14 8-11 38.
AVON GROVE: Traa 0 2-2 2; Nartey 1 1-4 3; Cavalier 1 0-0 2; Pyle 1 0-0 3; Huver 0 0-2 0; McGill 0 1-3 1; D’Angelo 1 0-0 2; Norris 1 2-4 4. Totals 5 6-15 127.
Bishop Shanahan 9 17 4 8 – 38
Avon Grove 2 2 7 6 – 17
Three-point goals: Petruno, Bojko 2, Pyle.