BELLEVILLE — The growing pains of the Althoff Crusaders young backcourt continued to mount on Thursday against the Mater Dei Knights.
Senior Emily Koelling scored 15 points and a relentless Mater Dei defense forced 23 turnovers as the Knights rolled to an easy 45-26 win before a sparse turnout at Althoff High School.
A little ragged on the offensive end of the court after a fifth-place finish at the Mascoutah Girls Invitational over the holiday break, the Knights (16-1) made up for it on defense, holding both Althoff senior Kymber Hill and the Crusaders as a team in check.
Facing double team coverage every time she touched the ball in the post, Hill scored just six points and, on this night, the 6-foot-3 University of Massachusetts recruit got little help from her teammates.
"I thought we did a pretty good job on the defensive end, but we've been doing that pretty much all season long,'' Knights coach David Kohnen said. "Anybody who looks at the stats would give credit to our post players. But the pressure that our guards put on made it difficult for them to get the ball inside.''
Althoff (8-6) managed just two points in the first quarter and eight in the first half.
A basket in the opening 90 seconds by Hill gave Althoff its only lead of the night. Mater Dei, getting five points from Paige Richards and four from senior Jamie Voss, scored the next 12 points and didn't allow Althoff to score again until Hill hit a running left-handed hook with six minutes left in the second quarter.
Hill's shot got Althoff to within 12-4 and two free throws by Rachel Kaltwasser cut the Knights lead to 12-6.
But with Koelling scoring three points, Mater Dei closed the second quarter with an 8-2 run to lead 20-8.
Althoff, which committed 13 first half turnovers, would get no closer in the final two quarters.
For Crusaders coach Todd Hill, the defensive pressure and resulting turnovers are something he's seen too much of this season.
"We knew they (Mater Dei) was going to double team Kymber. I was playing us, I'd double team her too,'' Hill said. "Our guards are young and we're going through some growing pains with them right now.
"Instead of trying to get the ball low, we've got to be able to recognize that and either be able to hit the shot or find the open player when teams are double teaming in the post. But like I said our guards are young.''
A short jumper by Anna Lampe and strong inside move and baskets by Koelling and Voss to start the second half increased the Mater Dei lead to 26-8.
Any hopes of a possible Althoff comeback were dashed when Hill picked up three fouls in the opening three minutes of the second half. But Althoff was never in the game during the final two quarters as Mater Dei, using its depth, continued to apply the pressure on the defensive end of the court.
"Our depth has been a big reason for our success all season,'' Kohnen said. "Those kids come in and they continue to apply the pressure. I think it wears teams down.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org