By KEVIN THOMPSON
DEERFIELD — Deerfield was looking to showcase its homecoming with its second win of the week (and the season), but a tough-as-of-late Greeley County squad stood in its way.
After a close first half, the Lady Jackrabbits used their size and depth and came away with a 45-34 win over the Lady Spartans.
Early on, it was the Hannah Whitaker show, as the senior scored eight of the Jackrabbits' 10 first-quarter points, but somehow Deerfield was able to cage the 5-11 post player in the second quarter, holding her to just a pair of free throws.
Deerfield kept it close that opening half, taking advantage of 11 turnovers, but the Lady Spartans were bitten by the scoring bug, dropping in just 5-of-24 field goal attempts (19 percent) and missing six of their 13 free throw attempts.
The Lady Spartans even went on a scoring drought that saw just two free throws through the net over a 9-minute span.
Still, the game was up for grabs, and the Spartans even took a brief lead of 21-20 to start the half on an Amber Tackett 3-pointer to complete an 11-0 Deerfield run.
But it was too much height and too much Whitaker to overcome. She scored 10 of her team-high 20 points in the second half despite picking up her third foul early in the third, and Monica Veleta scored six of her 13 in the third to propel the Jackrabbits to the win.
The Jackrabbits are now 5-1 in their last six after starting the season at 3-6, and Veleta said it's all about teamwork.
"Team bonding and getting everybody to work as a team has everybody working as one," she said. "We're trying to make sure everyone touches the ball."
Despite that philosophy, only four players scored, but Veleta said that's an improvement from the beginning of the season, another sign that the team is getting things figured out.
Another area of great improvement, she added, is the team rebounding. Greeley County took advantage of its size and grabbed 36 boards.
"We've worked on that after noticing that we weren't taking advantage of our height, especially with a couple of tall girls (5-10 and 5-11)," she said.
The 15 turnovers was high, especially during this run, Veleta added, but this was not the norm.
Other than that, she said, tenacious defense, attacking the boards and using their skills are paying dividends, and the confidence is building.
For Deerfield coach Doug Crandall, the loss following their only win of the season was not without its positives.
"We played pretty good defense. We wanted to play man, but they were just that much bigger, but we boxed out well," he said. "It was just a tough matchup for us."
That height disadvantage allowed Greeley County 10 possessions with second chances, while his team had only two.
"But I was pretty happy with how we played. We played hard the whole game. We had a few times where we might have taken a shot too early, but other than that, that's okay," he said.
Deerfield shot more threes than usual (16), but a tall and spread out zone defense forced them to take a few more, Crandall said, and they managed to convert five.
Nine turnovers was also good for his girls, he added, because not having a deep lineup forces them to handle the ball with purpose.
Greeley County 10 10 11 14 -- 45
Deerfield 8 10 5 11 -- 34
Greeley County (8-7) — Veleta 5 2-2 13, Whitaker 8 4-4 20, Glazier 3 0-0 6, Kel. Holthaus 3 0-0 6. Totals 19-55 6-6 45.
Deerfield (1-14) — Novack 4 2-4 13, Calderon 2 1-2 5, Tackett 3 2-3 10, Alcantar 1 2-4 4, Morgan 1 0-0 2. Totals 11-43 7-13 34.
3-pt. goals — Greeley County 1-3 (Veleta), Deerfield 5-16 (Novack 3, Tackett 2). Rebounds — Greeley County 36 (Whitaker 16), Deerfield 12 (Calderon 6, Morgan 4). Turnovers — Greeley County 15, Deerfield 9. Technical fouls — none. Total fouls — Greeley County 9, Deerfield 9.