By Gary R. Rasberry
COLDWATER -- Playing short-handed with injuries and coming off a sluggish first half, Coldwater rebounded to take the lead for good midway through the third quarter and posted a 47-43 win over Jay County in an interstate matchup on Tuesday at The Palace.
Coldwater improves to 11-3 on the season as the Patriots head down the stretch run towards the Indiana tournament at 9-9.
Coldwater coach Nick Fisher had just six full-time varsity players suited up along with several players who split time on the junior varsity level for the game.
"The 6-7 players that we're playing have a good cohesiveness. They play well together," said Fisher. "They played a lot during the summer. It hurts not having Brooke (Gross, a key guard off the bench)."
Early on, it was the Patriots' defense, not lack of numbers, that hampered the Cavaliers. Coach Nick Comer alternated between a 2-3 matchup and a 1-2-2 zone to keep close tabs on the Cavaliers, especially junior post player Kendra Robbins. While Coldwater struggled for points, its defense of the Patriots came up big with 11 turnovers. The Cavaliers couldn't turn the Jay County miscues into many points and trailed 21-18 at the break.
"They switched between the 2-3 and 1-2-2. I thought we got a little discombobulated," said Fisher. "I don't think we executed like we did in the first part of the game. We tried changing things on defenses we've been working on. I think we were thinking too much about reacting. It was a combination of the two."
"I thought we did a good job keeping the ball away from Robbins," said Comer. "She's an outstanding player. She got free a couple of times. .. We were having trouble with our offense. Their defense was pushing us too far away from the basket."
Both teams traded points to start the third quarter before Robbins found her stroke after scoring just six points in the first half. Robbins' shot with 4:31 left in the quarter put the Cavs up 25-23 and from there, the Cavaliers kept pushing the lead. Jessica Bettinger's three-pointer with 25 seconds left put Coldwater up 32-27 going into the fourth quarter.
"We put Kendra in the high post," said Fisher about adjustments made at halftime. "She could get the ball in the high post, square up and find people underneath, looking over their zone. I thought she did a good job of that."
The move paid off as Amber Heyne and Katelyn Kramer were both recipients of open looks off of Robbins' passes. Heyne scored all six of her points in the second half.
Robbins added more points in the final stanza, scoring six more to finish with 17 points to go with 12 rebounds. Bettinger also stayed hot, hitting another three-pointer to go with free throws on her way to a 13-point night.
The defense of Coldwater also held strong forcing another 10 turnovers for a total of 21 in the game and this time, the transition points were being scored. After going 7-of-19 from the field in the first half, Coldwater was 9-of-22 in the second half including 3-of-4 from the three-point line and added a near-flawless 8-of-9 from the foul line.
The Cavaliers went up by as many as eight in the final period before a late surge by the Patriots, concluding with a nearly halfcourt three-pointer from Sara Garringer at the buzzer, bringing Jay County to within four points at the end.
Garringer and Cassandra Huelskamp each had 10 to pace the Patriots.
Coldwater stays at home on Thursday, hosting St. Henry in Midwest Athletic Conference play.