Holt EC girls

Caleb Turrentine / Tallapoosa Publishers Elmore County’s Kyasia Brown (21) takes a jump shot against Holtville.

It is not clear when the last time Holtville played competitively with Elmore County in girls basketball but whenever it was, no one involved in Tuesday’s matchup was a part of it which made things very interesting into the third quarter.

After being used to running clocks and massive deficits in previous meetings, the Bulldogs came to play for the Class 5A Area 6 matchup in Eclectic and had the Panthers’ lead into single digits early in the second half. However, Elmore County’s defense and depth proved to be too much as it held Holtville to just two more field goals the rest of the night, leading to a 46-19 victory over its rival.

“It was ugly,” ECHS coach Rodney Taylor said. “I think those girls from Holtville really competed tonight and we haven’t seen that in a while. I think we took them for granted. They made us play really sloppy. The second half wasn’t great but we made enough plays to win. We found a way to win and any time you can win an area game, you’ll take it.”

The game was filled with defensive pressure from both teams which led to a bundle of turnovers on both ends of the court but that’s what Holtville was building its game plan on and it nearly worked to perfection through the first two quarters. The Bulldogs (3-7, 0-2) forced 16 turnovers and held the hosts to just 20 points through the game’s first 18 minutes.

“It’s not sloppy, it’s just what we call havoc,” Holtville coach Jason Franklin said. “This is a set deal we want to do. It may look like mass chaos at times but it’s organized. The girls know where they are supposed to be… I’m proud of our girls. I don’t know the last time the girls team played Eclectic in that fashion. They were competing and they played with great effort.”

Elmore County (4-2, 1-1) fell right into the trap early on and could not find any rhythm on offense. Taylor took a quick timeout in the second half once the lead was trimmed to nine points and the Panthers responded by finishing the game on a 26-8 run.

The Panthers used their own defense to fuel the run and finished with 23 steals as a team, led by Kelley Green with six. She also finished with six assists, often hitting a teammate in transition after a Holtville turnover.

“That’s what we have to do,” Taylor said. “We’re not a good shooting team right now so we have to be geared with our defense and we have to be geared with getting some open baskets in transition. Sometimes it’s going to be ugly looking but with the way our defense has played, it has really carried us.”

Despite still missing starting forward Madison Britt, Elmore County dominated on the glass and used second-chance opportunities to help stretch out the lead. The Panthers finished with 24 offensive rebounds as a team and scored 20 second-chance points.

“That’s just part of my basketball philosophy,” Taylor said. “Right now, with our lack of shooting, there will be a lot of opportunities for that so we have to make the most of those opportunities.”

Seanna O’Daniel finished as the team’s leader on the glass, grabbing 13 total rebounds including seven on the offensive end which led to her scoring a game-high 16 points. Madelyn Becker added 12 rebounds to go with her six points.

Holtville did not have an answer on the offensive end, struggling to find a shooting rhythm. Rylee Helus led the Bulldogs with seven points while Summer Hutcheson added six.

“We’re working to take more shots and eventually they are going to start falling,” Franklin said. “We have a lot of young ladies that can go out and score but it’s about having the confidence to not pass up open shots. That’s been our message to them. If you have an open shot, take it.”

Both teams have a quick turnaround with the county tournament beginning Wednesday night. Area play will resume for both teams next week with the rematch at Holtville set for Jan. 14.

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.