A new basketball season always brings questions, but Indian Creek girls basketball coach Dan Burkman really only had one.
How would the Braves fare without longtime scoring leader Ali Lehman, an Indiana All-Star who graduated last year and is now playing Northern Illinois University?
While the Braves found a pair of potential leaders in sophomore Candace Danz and senior Jessica Knight, Burkman didn’t get the answer he sought as Knightstown beat the host Braves 57-42 in Friday night’s season-opener.
“It was a learning experience,” Burkman said. “First games are.”
Although Indian Creek started well enough and led 16-10 at the end of the first quarter, the Braves had a difficult time the rest of the way.
In the second quarter, Indian Creek didn’t play with the same aggressiveness and confidence and went more than five minutes without a field goal, which would ultimately cost them the game.
Well, that and Knightstown’s 6-0 senior center Emily Thomas
The Knights’ game plan was simple: Pound the ball inside to Thomas. Thomas didn’t disappoint, scoring a game-high 30 points.
Thomas only shot one basket from more than five feet out, but with game plan working there really wasn’t any need for her to do any perimeter shooting.
“She was tough,” Burkman said. “But so was that stretch where we didn’t score. That kind of took the wind out of our sails. The girls had the lead and had it taken away from them.”
It didn’t get any easier in the third quarter as the Braves only scored four points in the quarter, two less than they scored in the second.
In that quarter, Knightstown didn’t rely as heavily on Thomas, getting more points from senior Jill Gross; but its defense was just as good, frustrating the Indian Creek shooters throughout and outrebounding the Braves.
Indian Creek found the basket more frequently in the final quarter, but the deficit was too much to overcome. Still, it was a quarter that Burkman liked, noting that he didn’t see his team give up on anything.
Danz led the Braves with 16 points. Knight added 11.
Gross had 14 for the Knights
“I told the girls that I was not disappointed in their play and was pleased with the effort,” Burkman said. “I think they tried to make things happen too quickly like force their shots, but that tells me we have competitors on the team.”