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Bench lifts Crawford over Salem, 65-52

November 19, 2008
Crawford County coach Eric Toney thought he would have some depth in his team this year, and the Lady Pack proved him right in their season-opener at Salem in a 65-52 win Thursday night. The bench didn't score a lot of points, but they did plenty of other things right when Crawford found itself in early foul trouble.

Crawford County's Chelsea Benham, left, and Salem's Annie Newkirk go to the deck after Benham knocked the ball away in the first half. (Photo by Wade Bell)
"I felt like I had some bench players that could come in and tonight definitely proved it," Toney said. "We played a lot more aggressive than we did last year. We've got some players that can get out on the floor and put some pressure on the other team."

"Last year, our defense was more of a contained defense," he said. "We just tried not to give up anything easy. We tried to make sure we didn't let the other team get out of hand, and we're trying to set a tone with our defense this year at half court."

Salem got the better start as sophomore Megan Smith began the game by drilling back-to-back three-balls as the Lady Lions took a 9-2 lead. Crawford, however, woke up to what was happening and responded with a 12-0 run, with freshman Chelsea Jellison scoring eight of those as the Lady Pack rallied to a 14-9 lead.

The foul troubles then began for the Lady Pack with Chelsea Benham, Kim Holzbog and Jellison being called for their second each. Holzbog was called for her third with less than a half minute to go in the first period, and Benham equaled that with 6:37 to go in the second period. Salem took advantage and came back to lead, 22-20.

The Lady Lions pushed their lead to four by the half, 29-25.

"We picked up some fouls, and we'll probably do that," Toney said. "We've got some people who can foul, but the difference is this year we had some people step up and perform in those difficult situations. This year, instead of being distracted by a deficit, we saw it as a challenge."

Fouls continued to add up for both teams in the third period, with Salem's Smith and Barbi Richardson called for their third each and Benham hit with her fourth.

Jellison and junior Shauncae Bigham then launched a 14-3 Crawford offensive, as Bigham scored nine of those for a 47-40 lead.

Salem pulled within five after Richardson scored in the paint, but from there it was all Crawford, as the Lady Pack cruised for the 65-52 win.

"The bench won this game," Toney said. "We were able to stretch the game out at the end, but we would have not had any position to do that had we not gotten tremendous bench play in the second quarter and the third quarter."

Crawford's Jellison led the scoring with 23 points, and Benham finished with 20 points. Bigham came off the bench to pour in 13 points. Crawford connected on 15 of 24 free throws and had 13 turnovers.

"Shauncae Bigham, it was how hard she was playing compared to how hard she has been playing in the past," Toney said. "She ran the floor well. She battled the bigger people. Most of the time she was at a disadvantage, but she continued to battle. She beat her defender down the floor numerous times, which is a big difference (from) where she was a year ago."

Jellison is one of the team's new group of freshmen who doesn't like the word 'losing' in their vocabulary.

"They're not used to losing," Toney said. "They know what it takes to win. They didn't just win because of just superior talent. They won because they were competitors. They're now competing at a much higher level, and it's going to take some adjustment. They're going to make some mistakes, but it's a lot of fun coaching kids who are competitors, who work hard."

Smith led Salem with 13 points. The Lady Lions were 15 of 27 from the charity stripe and made 19 turnovers.

Toney said his group has some things to work on, including patience.

"We've got to make better decisions, a little more patience at times," he said. "When you're young, it's like wild horses out there. All they know to do is charge, which is good. That's aggressiveness.

"But at times, there's judgment that comes in and then game situations change and you want to make a different decision than you made two or three minutes earlier, when the game was a different game. Those are things we have to learn gradually. It's just to be expected," Toney continued.

"I'm very appreciative of how hard they play," he said. "It's always good to have young players with enthusiasm. I'm very pleased. This is a tough place to win. We had a lot of things going against us, but we gutted it out."

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The Lady Pack opened up their home schedule Saturday with a 62-58 loss to Charlestown.

Crawford then hosted rival North Harrison last night (Tuesday). However, the game was played after publication.

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