WCHS girls cave against press, fall to H-D

WEBSTER CITY – Full court press – those three words measure a combined 14 letters. But to the Webster City girls’ basketball team it’s simply a four-letter word.

Know what I mean?

The Lynx bugaboo against pressure defense didn’t magically disappear over the Christmas break, and North Central Conference co-leader Hampton-Dumont exploited their weakness on Friday in a 47-31 victory inside the WCHS gymnasium.

Webster City (2-8, 2-7 NCC) – losers of three straight games – turned the ball over 36 times, mostly while trying to break the Bulldogs’ 90-foot pressure. There were errant passes, a slew of traveling calls and a couple of double-dribble whistles, all of which led to mounting frustration on the court and sideline.

“We just don’t break the press well, and it’s not that we don’t spend a lot of (practice) time working on it because we do,” WCHS head coach Nicole Muhlenbruch said. “A lot of time it’s that we panic … (the girls) don’t want to make a mistake and so in turn they make a mistake. They want to do well and they don’t want to turn the ball over, so they lack that little bit of confidence they need.”

Although they trailed just 14-10 at halftime, the Lynx piled up 21 turnovers and took only 19 shots during the game’s first 16 minutes.

They were held scoreless in the first quarter until Emily Elm canned a 3-pointer from the left wing with 18 seconds to go, but Hampton-Dumont (8-2, 7-1 NCC) had its own issues and led by only three, 6-3, after the opening quarter.

“We were very happy with our defense (in the first half), but we’re just not generating enough offense,” Muhlenbruch said. “We need to be shooters and attack the basket.”

WCHS pulled to within a bucket at 14-12 early in the third quarter, but then the Bulldogs – or, more specifically, first-team all-conference forward Taryn Barz – took over.

Hampton-Dumont rattled off 10 consecutive points and led by as many as 13 in the third quarter. Barz drilled nine of her team’s 18 field goals in the game, and she scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the second half.

“(Barz) is by far, I think, the best low-post player in our conference,” Muhlenbruch said. “She deserves all of the recognition she gets because she’s good, she’s strong and she knows what to do with the ball.”

Behind back-to-back steals and lay-ups from Kelsey Lindmark and Rachel Kauffman late in the third quarter, WCHS went on a mini-run to climb back to within six, 27-21, but the Bulldogs – winners of four straight – turned two steals into baskets to clamp off the Lynx momentum, and the visitors were never threatened again.

Jordan Prantner and Jessica Speake both added nine points for the winners.

Lindmark led WCHS with six points, and Elm, Cambria Hoffmann and Hannah Myers all finished with five. Lindmark also had five steals, while Kauffman finished with three points and four steals.

Hoffmann (six), Emma White (six) and Mikala Harrill (five) were the Lynx leaders on the glass.

WCHS will return to its home court on Friday to face Algona. On Saturday, the Lynx will face their most difficult challenge of the season with a road contest at third-ranked (Class 4A) Waverly-Shell Rock.