By BRETT MARSHALL
TRIBUNE — There's nothing a basketball coach likes more than having a deep bench to give their starters some necessary rest.
Greeley County girls coach Tom Farmer is glad to have that advantage.
The Lady Jackrabbits' first year coach had to go the first four games without two of his regulars, one of whom had been a starter a year ago, due to a suspension for violation of team policies. Both returned Tuesday against Syracuse and Mackenzi Bender and Haylie Greeson contributed to the impressive 54-38 victory.
Bender scored eight points and Greeson six, but more important, Farmer was able to give leading scorer Kelli Crittenden and his other starters some time on the bench.
"We were able to have different rotations and looked at some different things," Farmer said. "It was a tiring weekend but I think we got our rhythm going tonight, and their legs were just a little better than I thought they might be."
With Crittenden, a 5-foot-6 senior point guard, scoring six points, the Lady Jackrabbits opened the first quarter with a 16-9 lead. It didn't help Syracuse's cause when its senior point guard, Kamie Rash, was saddled with three fouls in the first quarter. She didn't return until the start of the second half.
By then, the Jackrabbits had forced Syracuse into 22 first half turnovers and converted that into a commanding 32-14 halftime lead.
"It's probably our best game of the season," Crittenden said. "Having Haylie and Mackenzi back helped us a lot and gave us some breathers. They came back on us at the start of the third, but we stayed with what had been working for us."
By halftime, Crittenden had knocked down 14 of her team-high 17 points.
"We had a couple days to get rested, and we did have an early practice (5:30 a.m.) on Monday," she said. "But I like it, it gets it over for the day."
When Rash re-entered the game for the third quarter, she contributed one bucket and a couple of assists to Kylee Hedberg, who paced Syracuse with 19 points, and the Lady Bulldogs had climbed to within a 32-20 deficit, with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter.
It was as close as Syracuse would get as the Jackrabbits finished off the quarter on a 12-6 run and took a 44-26 lead into the final eight minutes. The Bulldogs would get no closer than 14.
Greeley County turned the ball over 23 times. Syracuse won the rebounding battle 30-23 as Rachel Gerard grabbed six for the Lady Bulldogs. Kelli Crittenden and Shalee Myers had five apiece for Greeley County.
Greeley County hosts Sharon Springs on Friday, and Syracuse travels to Southwestern Heights to take on the defending Class 3A state champions Southwestern Heights.
Greeley Co. 54, Syracuse 38
SYRACUSE (3-2) — Rash 2-6 2-2 6, Sharp 0-1 0-0 0, Gordanier 1-1 1-1 3, Nairn 2-9 5-8 7, Dowell 0-0 0-1 0, Graber 0-0 0-0 0, Housholder 0-0 0-2 0, Hedberg 8-15 3-3 19, Gerard 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 13-32 12-19 38.
GREELEY CO. (3-2) — Schneider 3-4 1-4 7, Greeson 3-4 0-1 6, Kelcy Crittenden 2-3 0-0 4, Kelli Crittenden 6-13 4-5 17, Bender 2-8 3-4 8, Robertson 1-2 0-0 2, Myers 3-7 0-1 6, Moser 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 22-46 9-15 54.
Syracuse 9 5 12 12 — 38
Greeley Co. 16 16 12 10 — 54
3-point goals — Syracuse 0-4 (Rash 0-2, Nairn 0-2), Greeley Co. 3-12 (Greeson 0-1, Kelli Crittenden 1-4, Bender 1-5, Myers 0-1). Rebounds — Syracuse 30 (Gerard 6), Greeley Co. 23 (Kelli Crittenden 5, Myers 5). Turnovers — Syracuse 33, Greeley Co. 23. Fouled out — Syracuse (Rash), Greeley Co. (Moser).