By Jeremy McDonald
GERVAIS, Ore.– Sheridan once more showed that they are no easy out as they faced Gervais for the second time over the course of the last seven days Monday night in Gervais.
Their physical playing style and aggression defensively creates headaches if done right against their oppositions offense and they did just that in keeping the Cougars at bay for three quarters in Gervais’ 54-31 win. The Spartans worked the inside post game for the first half even, working away from their perimeter shooters in Haley Ayala and Onahzay Pacheco and instead let Natalie Nielsen use their length to work around the Cougs defense.
The junior Nielsen scored 12 of her 13 points in the opening half. One of the baskets involved had handed Sheridan a brief 15-14 lead as the Sparts rallied from 8-0 down to take the one-point lead.
“It was nice, it felt good to go in and really take over in the paint and not shooting so much like we usually do,” Nielsen said.
The crucial part of the defensive game-plan moving into the second half, as Gervais led 23-17, was how to address Nielsen. Once they did however, that’s when everything just clicked defensively. Outside of a run that turned a 27-17 Gervais lead to an uncomfortable 28-26 advantage, Nielsen was held to one second half point with the Cougs pulling ahead 35-26 going into the fourth quarter and not looking back.
“We just had to put a body on her because that wasn’t something that we were doing in the beginning. But once we find a body and then we were able to shut her down,” Gervais Olivia Boyd said. “It’s a big confidence booster, we just lost to Salem Academy so it was just good to come back in with a win. Especially with a physical game, it’s nice to start it off with a win.
“We really needed to work on our zone offense and that’s what we did during the rest of the week (last week). We worked on zone offense and came back today and it worked a lot better for us.”
Boyd finished with a game-high 19 points for Gervais and Ayala, who came alive in the second half, scoring 11 of her team-high 14 points in the game for Sheridan as both teams kick off one of those physically taxing weeks.
The Cougars play Colton and Western Christian Wednesday and Thursday while the Spartans play the Pioneers, Salem Academy and Colton Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday respectively. All with TRC League Playoff seeding at stake as the regular season draws to a close in the coming days.
“Just looking at what we need to fix, making sure all of our defense is locked down and looking at our games previous playing against them. Fixing things and building from there,” Nielsen said. “Come together as a group and play together as a family.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald