EUNICE – On a night where the half-court offense struggled to get going early on, it was the defense and offensive rebounding that seemed to propel the Eunice girls’ basketball team to a 43-23 win over visiting Dexter Tuesday night.
The Lady Cardinals (17-3, 5-0 District 4-3A) had to fight for every point for much of the game, turning 11 offensive rebounds and 20 Lady Demons turnovers into 26 points. Most of those came in the first half. Once Eunice had a double-digit lead midway through the third quarter, though, it opened up the opportunity for Harria Mendoza to ice the game and finish with a game-high 20 points.
The victory makes the Lady Cardinals winners of nine straight games, which isn’t something head coach Jimmie Jones overlooks.
“It’s good, it’s definitely nice to have nine straight at this point of the season,” he said. “I’m definitely happy with the direction that we’re going as a group. We’re getting more kids involved, and putting enough points up to win.”
Mendoza may have finished with the most points – and rebounds with 10 – while no other Eunice player scored more than seven, but the Lady Cardinals’ win goes much beyond her.
Facing a triangle-and-two defense from Dexter that focused on restricting Mendoza and Jada Jones, those two had a hard time getting the ball, much less get off decent shots. Mendoza posted just three points in the first quarter, all from free throws, and Jones’ only two points of the game came in the second while focusing more on facilitating.
And yet, Eunice led the Lady Demons (10-11, 2-3) at the end of the first quarter, 11-6.
Lexxie Dean started the game with a 3-pointer for a 3-0 lead. Dexter couldn’t find a rhythm after consistently turning the ball over off steals from Xitlaly Ontiveros (twice), Aide Frazier, Mendoza, and Reegan Wilson. And Faith Miller, who came in off the bench early for a banged-up Dean, scored five points over the final 21 seconds of the frame to give Eunice a lead it wouldn’t forfeit.
Jaqui Ortega and Rachelle Nogelmeier also played meaningful minutes off the bench, though they came in the second half.
“I thought our role kids really stepped up and contributed tonight, which was a big difference for us,” Jimmie Jones said. “I was real happy with our bench. Our starting point guard Lexxie Dean had a pretty good (bump) on the side of her head … so we took her out.
“We started using different kids off the bench to fill that spot. One of the first ones to fill that spot was Faith.”
In the second quarter, Mendoza posted six points, but five of those came from two of her own offensive rebounds and one offensive board from Frazier. Five offensive rebounds turned into eight of 13 second-quarter points, and seven Dexter turnovers helped the Lady Cards to a 24-12 halftime lead.
“We had some kids that got in there and did a really good job down low on the offensive glass, getting rebounds and put-backs, and that helped us a bunch,” Jimmie Jones said. “That was definitely a team effort because we had several (kids) in there getting them.”
Eunice was able to spread out more on offense in the second half due to a big lead. By passing around to kill time, the Lady Cards forced Dexter to pull away from double teams and put more pressure beyond the arc.
Mendoza just hung around the paint from there and put up eight points over the final nine minutes. Nogelmeier scored four points in the second half, and Frazier put up the final two of her seven points in the fourth.
In all, Eunice accrued 13 steals, led by Ontiveros and Frazier’s three each. Jada Jones posted seven rebounds, while Frazier and Ontiveros each had five.