STILLWATER — When meaningful basketball games are played, defense must play a starring role.
And with a couple of costume changes, Lake George’s defense did its job to frustrate Warrensburg in a 68-51 win Saturday in the Adirondack League girls basketball championship at Stillwater. It was Lake George’s fifth consecutive Adirondack League championship.
The Warriors (17-2) opened in and spent most of the night in an aggressive 2-3 zone. The change of costume came early — specifically, the first time Warrensburg’s Hope Boland scored a pull-up jumper that came on transition. That’s when the Warriors employed a loose three-quarters press, designed not so much to create turnovers but to slow the speed-seeking Burghers down.
And then the Warriors would settle back into their 2-3, in which their wings — and by wings, it’s anyone not named Graceann Bennett, situated in the middle of the paint — were hustling all over the place and disrupting the Burghers.
“It helps when you have Graceann in the middle because she pretty much runs our defense because she’s a tremendous communicator,” Lake George coach Rob Tefft said. “But the slide is important — those kids do a really good job with that. They get out quick, they’re active hands and they cover that short corner really well.”
Then, of course, there is the 6-foot-2 Bennett. On a night in which the future Georgetown player finished with four blocked shots — to go along with her 29 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists — she was also responsible for altering several others.
So suddenly Lake George played at a relatively quick pace and led 19-9 after the first quarter and by as much as 22 (31-11) with 5:34 left in the second quarter.
“Pace is a word we’ve stressed the last couple weeks of practice, and controlling the tempo,” Bennett said. “Being able to slow it down for them and pick it up for us is a skill that we’re starting to come into, and that’ll be huge for us going into sectionals.”
Warrensburg finished the first half, however, on an 8-0 run, giving Burghers coach Scott Smith hope and Tefft some agita. Lake George led 35-21 at the break.
“I felt like we had a two-minute window in the first half where we stopped playing,” Smith said. “If we play through that, make some foul shots (the Burghers were 7 of 17 that half), now all of a sudden it’s a manageable deficit at halftime.”
Warrensburg got as close as eight points, 45-37, but Bennett responded with a couple of buckets to bring the lead back to double-digits for good.
“Unfortunately, we dug ourselves too deep in the first half,” Smith said. “But Lake George deserves it. Their zone caused us a lot of trouble. It took us the entire first half to get going. We did better the second half, started attacking the basket better.
“We could see them again in, like, 11 days. We’ve got to find something that’ll work.”
Megan Hughes had a tremendous game for Warrensburg (18-2), with 29 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Aubrey Ranous added 12 points and seven rebounds.
For Lake George, Mikayla Duffy had 14 points and five rebounds. Nikki Hladik scored nine points.