BATAVIA – Fifteen of the Batavia girls basketball team’s Bulldog Buddy Club youth fans sprinted and smiled through separate pregame introductions Friday.
Accepting their share of tiny hand slaps, the big Bulldogs grinned in turn. If only the transfer of energy had been as seamless.
Batavia admittedly needed a jolt in the early stages of a 69-39 romp against Larkin. The Royals tied the Upstate Eight Conference River Division game at 19 midway through the second quarter before the Bulldogs finally discovered it.
“We started off pretty slow, but we just told ourselves that we were better than this, and we just stopped them defensively and just kept scoring on our end,” junior forward Jess Koch said. “It was good.”
It’s a rare condition when a team interprets the instruction of a public address music selection as a direct order. But there were the Bulldogs (14-13, 7-5 UEC River), responding to Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” – if not coach Kevin Jensen – moments after the 27-year-old hip hop tune prompted grooving from fans young and old during a timeout.
Batavia closed the second quarter on a 15-0 run en route to outscoring the Royals, 16-2, overall to build a 34-19 lead at the break. The Bulldogs simply ratcheted up their man-to-man defense while solving the Royals’ zone more consistently.
Larkin (6-20, 2-10) and Batavia both hovered around 50 percent shooting in the first quarter, but the Royals shot nine percent from the field in the second.
“We had good looks. Girls were taking good shots, uncontested shots. But they just unfortunately were not falling,” Royals coach Ruben Flores said. “So we’ve got to make that adjustment. We’ve got to go to the hoop, we’ve got to go to the rack a little bit more instead of settling for that outside shot.”
Koch’s pinpoint putback of a Hannah Frazier’s in-and-out 3-pointer punctuated the run moments before halftime. It provided just another example of the hustle the Bulldogs channeled after the timeout, musical muse or not.
Reserve junior forward Emily Lasse kick-started the spurt with an especially impressive sequence, starting by drilling a long baseline jumper to give the team a 21-19 lead.
With Larkin working to move the ball crisply, Lasse followed with a block of Royals post Shawniece Douglas, leading to Shea Bayram’s basket in transition at the other end.
Lasse scored eight points, following Frazier (17), Koch (17) and Bayram (10).
Lasse continues to make the most of her minutes after practicing with the Bulldogs for the second half of the 2013-14 season. She moved to Batavia from Katy, Texas, at mid-semester when her father, a Sears executive, transferred, but was ineligible to play until this fall.
“I think it’s awesome,” Lasse said. “I love everybody on the team, and … even though I couldn’t play last year, to be able to see how it was, the dynamic of the team, and now to be able to play, that’s nice.”
Royals sophomore guard Marlee Kyles led all scorers with 19 points, flirting with her season average.
Quixmia Washington added 11 points, but much of Larkin’s offensive output came once Batavia was well ahead.
At one point, the Bulldogs went on a 23-0 run spanning the second and third quarters, a stretch of dominance they’ll look to duplicate Tuesday when the teams meet again in Elgin in a scheduling quirk.
“It is a little weird,” Koch said, “but we know what to expect. They know what we’re expecting. We just have to come out, don’t play any differently and still play as hard as we can.”
That goes double if the Bulldog Buddy Club is unable to travel, too.