By Eric Butler
ALBUQUERQUE — Coming out of the locker room at halftime, the Elida girls basketball team Tuesday was greeted by a chant of “offense, offense” from its supporters.
Perhaps the Tigers’ fans knew that just a little more offensive production would spell doom for Tatum in a Class 1A state quarterfinal at Valley High School.
If so, they were right.
Senior Samantha Southard added to a 24-12 intermission lead by immediately canning a 3-pointer, giving the Tigers the momentum needed to move on to the semifinals with a 33-24 win.
“Last year, we lost (in the first round) and that wasn’t a very good feeling,” said Southard, who scored a game-high nine points. “This year, we’ve already gone further and we’re all happy about that.”
Elida (17-12) came out quick against the Coyotes as Halee Best and Southard each connected on treys in the early moments for a 6-0 lead. But a tough half-court zone defense for Tatum (23-7), combined with a frequently-used full-court press, appeared to shake the offensive confidence of the Tigers.
The Coyotes, however, could not get untracked against the Tigers either.
Particularly troubling for Tatum’s offense was the shot-blocking ability and interior denial defense of Elida post players Keisha Chenault and Adrienne Coe. Tatum’s leading scorer, Tina Burnett, tallied only four points before finally fouling out with 2:44 left in the game.
“They actually have three good posts — that number 32, (Shalie) Anthony, comes in and does a good job,” Tatum coach Mike Majors said. “They move their feet pretty well and they play great defense.
“And our offense is post-oriented. They did a great job keeping it out of our hands. We didn’t get many touches and, when we did get touches, we didn’t do much with it.”
Casey Ford added eight points for the Tigers while Coe tallied seven in the win. While Chenault only scored two points and struggled with foul problems throughout, she also blocked four Tatum shots when in the game.
After Southard’s 3-pointer to start the third quarter, both offenses went into a freeze.
The next basket wouldn’t come for another three minutes, when Coe rebounded a teammate’s miss and scored herself for a 22-10 Elida lead.
At that point, the Tigers ceased to attack offensively — unless the Tatum defense broke down.
“That was probably the wrong thing to do, because they went out there and started trapping on us,” said Elida coach Dan Howard after the game. “It looked like we started struggling a little bit.”
The Tigers play Grady in a state semifinal game 8 p.m. Thursday at West Mesa High School.
“They’re a great team. They don’t give up, they don’t care what the score is — they just keep coming at you,” said Howard of Grady. “It’ll be a little more up-tempo game. They do play that tough man-defense and we’re going to have to execute.”