It was as plain as the smiles on their faces, or lack of.
The Columbus Christian girls basketball players were having a lot of fun in the first quarter of their 61-40 victory against visiting Indianapolis Lighthouse on Friday night.
The Bulldogs not so much.
After the first eight minutes, the Crusaders (10-4) were off to a 19-2 lead. Because of the intense defensive pressure by the host school, Lighthouse couldn’t dribble, couldn’t shoot, couldn’t breathe.
Lighthouse (7-6) had 13 turnovers in the first quarter, 21 for the half and 36 for the game. The Bulldogs had kind of a collective blank expression on their faces.
Columbus Christian took a bigger, more athletic team and tied it into knots.
Crusaders guards Macy Wingham and Kayleigh Reed, who both might measure 5-foot on their tippy-toes, led the assault even though the opposing guards both were 5 inches taller.
“We stress that we need to come out with high intensity, and we did that tonight,” said Columbus Christian coach Ron Bridgewater. “We want to attack.”
Wingham and Reed were the first wave of that attack, often stripping clean the Bulldogs’ ball-handlers. It led to easy baskets.
“Most of the time, Macy and Kayleigh are going to play guards who are bigger,” Bridgewater said. “But most of the time, they are going to be faster. They both do a great job attacking off the dribble.”
Both junior guards were smiling as they went to work.
“When we have a big lead, it makes it fun,” said Reed, who finished with 10 points that included three 3-pointers. “And I think we’ve improved a lot.”
Wingham, who led all scorers with 29 points, said it was important to get on the court after a Christmas break.
“This was a building game for us,” Wingham said. “It was our first game back from Christmas break, and it was our time to work on things.”
The score dictated that Columbus Christian had the time to work on things without much worry. The Crusaders led 31-13 at the half and 48-31 after three quarters.
One thing that Bridgewater will talk to his team about is shooting over taller players. Columbus Christian had 10 shots swatted away by a team that was taller at every position.
But even when Lighthouse managed to knock away shots, the Crusaders often would run them down.
“You’ve got to think mental toughness,” said Wingham, who had a couple shots sent flying after driving the lane.
Reed shook her head after hearing Wingham’s comment. “Coach (Bridgewater) talks to us a lot about mental toughness.”
Columbus Christian center Tori Robinson was the picture of toughness, battling Lighthouse’s taller players inside for every rebound. Robinson finished with eight points, but her work on the boards was huge.
Julie Decker also fought for inside position and finished with eight points for Columbus Christian.