WEST CHICAGO – After watching his Batavia girls basketball team limit West Chicago to four points during the second quarter Thursday, Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen liked his team’s chances of remaining in command.
The second half reinforced Jensen’s optimism as Batavia cruised to a 56-33 Upstate Eight Conference River victory.
Of West Chicago’s two baskets in the second quarter, one came in the closing seconds, bringing the Wildcats within 27-14.
“Quite frankly, when we get ahead, our defense has been pretty solid where it’s hard for teams to [come back],” Jensen said. “I told them at halftime, I said I hope our offense gets better, but I don’t know how much it has to get better because I’m not sure we’ll allow more than 30 points tonight, and if it weren’t for those free throws at the end, we wouldn’t have.
“So I think that’s part of the putting [teams] away. Some people hear putting away and they’re thinking scoring. I hear putting away and I’m thinking, yeah, we scored, but putting the locks down where they’re not getting a whole lot on offense.”
Considering how dominant Batavia (10-11, 4-3 UEC River) was for most of the night, the Wildcats’ 10-9 advantage after the first quarter was a head-scratcher.
Jensen said the Bulldogs’ sluggish start mostly had to do with figuring out ways to involve standout forward Hannah Frazier (20 points, eight rebounds) in the post without floating dangerous passes into traffic.
“When teams just decide to absolutely surround Hannah early, it just took our guards a little bit to kind of get their feet under them,” Jensen said. “But we also took a lot of decent shots that were good shots that didn’t fall at first, and we shot some of the same ones in the second half that fell.”
Frazier scored nine points during a second quarter in which the Bulldogs outscored the Wildcats, 18-4, setting in motion a regular season sweep over West Chicago.
The next critical step for the Bulldogs is to raise their game against some of the tougher teams in the conference, such as their Tri-Cities rivals.
“I think they’re all great teams and I think we are capable of hanging with them, it’s just mentally we need to be ready for the games,” Batavia point guard Bethany Orman said. “Like the first quarter, we were kind of slow, and in those games, we can’t have slow first quarters against teams like that. We just need to be focused and ready to go right in the beginning of those games, and I think the odds might be in our favor if we do that.”
Orman made three 3-pointers on the night; she and Shea Bayram scored nine points apiece for the Bulldogs.
West Chicago attempted a whopping 19 free throws during the fourth quarter as Batavia’s reserves brought the game to a physical conclusion against an attack-minded Wildcats offense.