NEW WASHINGTON - Coming into Tuesday's Northern 10 clash with Mohawk, Buckeye Central coach Abram Kaple knew his team would have their hands full with 6-foot-3 Emily Klopp.
As most teams will this season.
"I told them we weren't going to hold her under 15 points, that's just unrealistic with our roster in terms of size — we just had to make things tough," Kaple said.
Up until the Warriors' fourth quarter surge where Klopp scored nine points, the Buckettes held her to seven points in the first half and none in the third quarter thanks to a joint defensive effort from Kennedy Deppen and Paige Collene — along with a brief Ella Evak appearance early — and terrific guard play.
"Kennedy did a phenomenal job," Kaple said. "Our goal was to stay in front of her and provide ball pressure to their guards to make them force tough entry passes. Not just on Klopp, we had to get tough on their guards in terms of post entry passing and making sure they had obstructed vision trying to throw in there. Kennedy did a great job, Paige was good on backside help and our guards did a good job making passes tough."
This was key in Buckeye Central's 38-33 win over Mohawk to preserve the Buckettes' unblemished start to the season and keep them in first place atop the N10 standings tied with Upper Sandusky and Carey.
"The scoreboard says five, but a majority of that game we were up by double digits," Kaple said. "I might've mismanaged the clock, but it was a Catch 22. You don't want to shoot your way out of a 16-point league, but in that situation I took the air out of the ball a little too soon and we started getting lackadaisical because we stopped playing on the offensive end. I take full responsibility for that, we haven't been in that situation yet this year. We made some mistakes down the stretch and that's something we can correct so that we don't do it again moving forward.
"That's what each game is, it's a lesson for us as coaches and players to get better at. Overall I was pleased with our effort on both ends of the court, we attacked their zone, made some shots, limited Klopp to a lot of touches and forced turnovers."
Mohawk jumped out to an 8-4 lead midway through the first quarter before being held scoreless for more than four minutes to close out as Buckeye Central reeled off 11 unanswered for a 15-8 lead. It was a low scoring, back-and-forth second that brought the teams into halftime at 21-16 in favor of the hosts.
The third quarter proved decisive for the Buckettes who were able to stretch a lead with offense, naturally, but it was their defensive effort that really set the tone early in the second half.
"We outscored them 13-4 in the third making some big shots, but it started with getting stops, getting out in transition and getting to the free throw line," Kaple said. "We had a play where we had them running in defensive transition and we found a shooter trailing the play. We want to be able to push to get the defense to scramble back to the paint in the hopes of them losing a shooter in transition."
Kate Siesel scored five of her 15 in the third and Sydney Wurm nailed her only two 3s in the same period. Kennedy Deppen's layup rounded out a 13-point quarter for the Buckettes who took a 34-20 lead into the fourth.
That lead was stretched to 16 briefly before Mohawk slowly, but surely, started chipping away at the lead and over the final few minutes had their own Tracy McGrady moment with some steals, forced turnovers on inbounds and key baskets to shift momentum. Ultimately 38-33 was the closest they'd get and Buckeye Central escaped with a win.
"The heart we had down the stretch, we put pressure on them and asked kids to do some things we normally don't," Mohawk coach Bruce Hannam said. "They played their hearts out at the end and I was proud of them. That's a game that's winnable for us, we just can't make that many mistakes.
"We fought hard there until the end. We can't wait to see them again."
Siesel finished with three rebounds, two assists and three steals to go with her 15 points, Deppen had 11 points, three rebounds and four steals, Ryley Kantzer six points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals, Wurm three rebounds with her six points.
Buckeye Central is back in action Friday night hosting Seneca East looking to extend its league win streak to 35 games with the last loss coming at home against Carey 27-21 on Jan. 31, 2020.
This article originally appeared on Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum: Buckeye Central girls top Mohawk in N10 basketball action