WILTON, Iowa — Defense hasn’t been a strong suit for the Wilton girls basketball team in recent years. That’s a problem they’re looking to correct this year.
“In the past few years we haven’t been so strong on the defensive end,” Wilton senior Emily Lange said. “We noticed we could put up points but our defense was weaker. This year we kind of focused on that.”
It showed in the first three games, where Wilton allowed just 40 points per contest, and it showed once again Monday night in Wilton.
Wilton jumped out to a big lead on the strength of a half-court trapping defense and cruised to a 68-46 win over previously unbeaten Louisa-Muscatine.
“I thought the first half we played a great defensive half,” head coach Jeremy Putman said. “We got a lot of touches, forced a lot of turnovers and got layups.”
The Beaver senior trio of Aubrey Putman, Kortney Drake and Emily Lange did their part offensively, too. Lange finished with a game-high 26 points, while Putman scored 16 and Drake added 11 points to fuel Wilton (4-0).
“We have each had a really good game before this one but we hadn’t all played well at the same time,” Lange said. “But tonight it clicked. Everybody got their fair share of points, defensive stops and everything.
“It was awesome.”
The game was close after one quarter, however, as the Beavers led the Falcons (2-1) just 12-6. But Wilton outscored Louisa-Muscatine 26-9 in the second quarter by creating turnovers, getting out in transition and attacking the paint.
Lange had 10 of her 26 points in the period to lead Wilton a 38-15 halftime lead.
“We have a lot of length and athleticism so we’re trying to put that in,” Putman said of the Beavers’ trapping defense. “We haven’t forced a lot of turnovers in it but today we did.
“I thought Emily took some really good shots. She knocked down some big shots early, a few jump shots that got her going and then started taking the ball to the basket. She had a really good night offensively.”
However, Putman wasn’t thrilled with the way Wilton “cruised” through the second half. Louisa-Muscatine outscored Wilton by one after halftime led by senior Mariah Pugh, who scored 15 of her 17 points after halftime. Sophomore Kylee Sanders added 15 points for the Falcons.
Wilton boys blitz L-M: Wilton didn’t allow a basket in the first 12 minutes of action on its way to a resounding 63-28 home win over Louisa-Muscatine in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader.
The victory marked the first varsity win for first-year head coach Erik Grunder.
“Coming into the season, you know we had a rough season last year, you’re always looking to where you can get that first win,” Grunder said. “Where are you going to get the monkey off your back? It was nice to get it in game three.
“I think it takes a little pressure off the guys and off me.”
Wilton (1-2) was led by senior Jared Townsend’s 21 points, 17 of which came in the first half. Fellow seniors Brock Hartley and Ashton Stoelk added nine points apiece.
“We’ve been talking all season about shooting with confidence,” Grunder said. “I think tonight was the first time we felt confident in some of our shots. I think as a team we built some confidence tonight which is always good.”
Wilton made a clear point of packing the paint on defense in the first half and it paid off, as the Beavers didn’t allow a field goal for the opening 12 minutes and led the Falcons 21-1 midway through the second quarter.
“We’ve been there,” Grunder said of L-M missing open perimeter looks. “It’s not like they were getting bad shots, they just couldn’t buy anything.”
The Beavers led 29-6 at intermission and never let up as they coasted to their first win of the season.