By KEVIN THOMPSON
INGALLS When you're the mechanic in charge of maintaining a well-oiled machine, the job can become dull if there's nothing to fix.
So goes the job for Ingalls coach Roger Thurlow, whose Lady Bulldogs, the No. 1 team in Class 1-2A, remained perfect for the season with a 34-23 win over Dighton. But even still, he thinks they need to get all parts of the machine synchronized.
The Bulldogs took care of the visiting Lady Hornets, but it didn't come without some quirks.
Ingalls held Dighton 20 points below its season average, but the Bulldogs themselves were 14 points below their own.
Once again it was the Ingalls defense, a key component in its 15-0 season, that shined big Friday evening as a half-court trap caused 25 Dighton turnovers, held leading scorer Leslie Speer to just seven points, and kept the Hornets' offense from getting inside often enough to inflict much damage.
Ingalls got off to an 8-2 lead, thanks in part to seven Dighton turnovers early in the first quarter before Speer and Diamond Brown cut the lead to two at the break.
A 3-point second quarter for Dighton and 5-point third stopped the Hornets from developing a flow, again thanks to a swarming defense that caused a dozen turnovers and allowed just two field goals in that span.
"I was very happy with the girls' defense," Thurlow said. "I really tried to stress at halftime that we needed to attack the rim. Dighton is athletic, and if we were hesitant, that was just going to help them out."
Thurlow was less than thrilled with his team's offensive output, crediting Dighton's play with making the shots tough, but also lamenting his team's inability at times to put down some easy shots.
"We missed a lot of easy buckets and didn't take care of the ball as well as we have been," he said. "But credit Dighton. They were scrappy."
Hornets coach Amy Felker was pleased with her team's effort against the top team in state, especially against Ingalls' pressure defense.
"Their half-court trap was something new our girls had never seen, and they were inexperienced with that type of thing. The way they handled it, we're getting it figured out," she said.
The Hornets were playing less than a week following the death of a schoolmate in a traffic accident, but Felker praised her team for competing as hard as they did.
"I told them afterwards that I was pleased with their effort. They came, and they gave their hearts and souls," she said.
Holding Ingalls to 15 points below its season average was a credit to her team's effort, she said.
"Our defense has worked really hard all season, and they worked really hard tonight," Felker said.
Offensively, though, her team just didn't get the shots to fall.
"We've had a tough week. We haven't had a lot practices. We had some walk-throughs, but we're kind of flat right now. But I am pleased, and I'm happy for my girls," she added.
For Thurlow, as the defense goes, so goes the offense. As long as his team keeps up the effort without the ball, it will always be a force.
"Our defense is really our strength. We were struggling with blocking out early in the year, but tonight we did a good job and made it tough for them to score," he said.
Both teams were 11-for-30 from the floor, but the difference was free throws, where the Bulldogs were 12-of-20 and the Hornets just 7-of-11.
Wyatt led Ingalls with 14 points, while Kaisha Batman added eight.
Shambray Budd led Dighton with 10 points, the only Hornet in double figures.
Thurlow was pleased with Wyatt's play, which included seven of our game-high 11 rebounds coming in the second quarter.
"She's just a force down below. She got down on herself because some of her shots weren't dropping, but she makes up for that on rebounds," Thurlow said.
Now 15-0, the Bulldogs are still focused on a mission. They won the league tournament last weekend and look to win the regular season.
"But the big goal is substate, and we're working on getting stronger. They come to practice every day and work hard," Thurlow said.
Dighton 6 3 5 9 -- 23
Ingalls 8 7 11 8 -- 34
Dighton (9-6) Brown 1 0-0 2, KBudd 1 2-2 4, Heath 0 0-1 0, Speer 3 1-2 7, SBudd 3 4-6 10. Totals 8-30 7-11 23.
Ingalls (15-0) Estrada 0 3-4 3, Beach 2 0-0 4, Batman 3 2-3 8, Whipple 1 1-2 3, Wyatt 5 4-7 14, Galaviz 0 2-4 2. Totals 11-30 12-20 34. 3-pt. goals Dighton 0-6, Ingalls 0-2. Rebounds Dighton 18 (SBudd 5), Ingalls 24 (Wyatt 11, Galaviz 4, Whipple 5). Turnovers Dighton 25, Ingalls 22. Fouled out Ingalls (Wyatt). Total fouls Dighton 16, Ingalls 14.