Eleven of the 13 Gar-Field girls who were in uniform for last night's game scored as the No. 14 Indians played their most complete game of the season in a 64-30 Cardinal District victory over visiting Osbourn Park.
Gar-Field, led by Kia Manuel's game-high 12 points and Nikki Wells's 11, improved to 9-2 overall, 3-0 in district play. The Yellow Jackets, led by Kat Rippe's six points, fell to 4-4, 0-2.
The Indians came out focused and intense. They scored the game's first 13 points and took a 39-15 lead into intermission. Gar-Field led by 36 late in the game.
Osbourn Park struggled against Gar-Field's tight man-to-man defense, and was suffocated by a swarming half-court press. As a result, the Yellow Jackets turned over the ball 14 times in the first half and made only 7 of 22 shots in the first 16 minutes.
"We pride ourselves on working hard from the opening tip," said first-year Gar-Field coach Larry Baker. "That's how we play--hard and fast. But as hard as we played tonight and as well as we played, the girls know that they weren't as intense as they could have been."
Gar-Field has won 13 straight Cardinal District titles and looks like a good bet to repeat this season. Four starters returned from last year's squad, including Manuel, a 6-foot senior forward who is averaging 17 points per game. She is complemented up front by Wells, a 5-11 junior forward. Vanessa Massie, a 5-8 senior guard, runs the Indians' offense.
"We worked all week on getting everybody involved and on playing as a team," said Manuel, who sat for much of the first half after picking up two personal fouls. "We aren't looking past anybody. Mr. Baker has us thinking that we have to play our hardest against everybody, because they are going to be playing their hardest against us."
Gar-Field's only losses this season came against Elizabeth Seton and Richmond powerhouse Midlothian.
It's been a tougher season so far for Osbourn Park.
On the 40-minute bus ride to Gar-Field, first-year coach Sonya Smith had her players close their eyes and visualize making free throws. The Yellow Jackets had gone 8 of 28 from the free throw line in a loss to Hylton last week, and Smith wanted to avoid a similar performance. The Yellow Jackets finished 8 of 16 from the free throw line last night.
"Free throws have been a major problem," Smith said. "This whole season is going to be a learning process for us. Gar-Field is a good team. Their players are on the court throughout the summer and fall. We're going to start doing that."