De Soto girls ready for shot at title game
De Soto girls basketball coach Dwight Spencer said he wanted his team to play in the Central Heights Invitational championship game, and an overwhelming performance Monday night set the stage for such an opportunity.
Kira Gonzalez scored 11 and Jackie Goleman and Kayla Bader each had 10 as De Soto dismantled Wellsville, 49-26 to open the season.
"We just wanted to come out and compete hard," Spencer said. "We accomplished that. We want to go out now and give ourselves a chance to win it all."
Gonzalez and the Cats wasted little time establishing a tone. Goleman won the opening tip and seconds later Gonzalez put De Soto on top, swishing a 3-pointer three seconds into the game.
A pair of Jessica Blankenship buckets and contributions by Gonzalez, Goleman and Stephanie Hoover gave the Cats a 21-6 lead at first-quarter's end.
The offense undoubtedly meshing, De Soto's defense was stellar through much of the game as well. Wellsville didn't score a field goal for nearly five minutes to open the first half, and more than doubled that mark in the second, going more than 11 minutes -- the entire third quarter and nearly half of the fourth -- without a point.
The Cats forced eight turnovers in the first quarter alone and their full-court press defense caused the Eagles endless fits.
"That'll be a main strategy of ours," Gonzalez said. "We're so small that we need to be scrappy to get as many turnovers as we can."
Nine Wildcats found their way to the scoreboard, but few showed the promise of Goleman and Gonzalez. Major factors a year ago, both demonstrated Monday they could elevate their game to lead the team.
Gonzalez worked the point guard position most of the time she was in, but achieved her game-high 11 points despite sitting out large chunks of the second and fourth quarters in foul trouble.
Meanwhile, Goleman was consistently able to beat her defender underneath the basket. A spotty free-throw shooting performance is all that kept her from high-scoring honors.
"They showed flashes of that last year," Spencer said. "They can match or even better those numbers. Kira played very well early offensively and Jackie did what she was capable of doing inside."
Bader was perhaps the biggest surprise of the bunch, however. The sophomore guard's 10 points accounted for nearly one-third of her points from all of last season. She finished 4-of-9 from the field and 2-of-4 from the free throw line.
Scoring mostly with driving layups, she could offer a viable third scorer for the Cats all season.
"She just makes great cuts to the basket," Spencer said. "She's a scorer. She finds a way to get the ball in the basket and players like that are precious."
De Soto were scheduled to play Metro Academy Wednesday for the right to advance to the Central Heights championship round but because of inclement weather, the game was postponed to Thursday. The Cats will play at 8 p.m.
If there is no school on Thursday, the girls' game will be moved to Friday and the boys team will play its second round on Saturday.