CLINTON , Iowa — Second half struggles have plagued the Muscatine girls basketball team all season. The Muskies lost their first five games of the season but led at halftime twice, only to be outscored by 34 points combined in those two games.
However, Muscatine was able to flip the script Friday night and scored the last 14 points in a 36-23 win, the Muskies' first of the season.
“We really needed that,” coach Susan Orvis said. “Really pleased with how we picked it up in the second part of the third and in the fourth quarter. To get that monkey off our back feels good.”
It felt like déjà vu in the fourth quarter, though, when Clinton went on a 7-2 run to take a one-point lead, 23-22, with six minutes remaining. Orvis called a timeout and the Muskies’ ran their offense to perfection to set up a wide open 3-pointer for sophomore Alicia Garcia.
She drained it for three of her game-high 14 points.
“That’s one thing, these girls, they’re coachable,” Orvis said. “They do what you say. They understand our structure, but it’s learning to play freely and together within that structure.”
Garcia also sparked the Muskies (1-5, 1-3) on the defensive end with six blocks. Orvis also credited sophomore Rylie Moss and senior Kendra Eller for the job they did on Clinton senior Macy Mulholland on the defensive end, as they followed the scouting report to perfection and forced her to drive left all game.
“Rylie and Kendra did a great job on their point guard,” Orvis said. “We always talk about that, our defense has to be our bread and butter. Until we get our offense more efficient and put some points on the board we have to guard.
“I really appreciate them taking the scouting report to heart, and everybody else played personally well. Holding somebody to 23 points gives us a chance in a lot of games.”
Indeed, it was a defensive slugfest for the first three quarters. Garcia converted a three-point play nearly five minutes into the ballgame for the first points by either team. Sophomore Zoey Long hit a 3-pointer for three of her 10 points moments later, but that was the Muskies’ only offense of the opening quarter.
The teams traded buckets for the remainder of the half until a 3 by Eller gave Muscatine a 15-11 halftime lead over Clinton (2-3, 1-3).
However, Garcia’s 3-pointer with six minutes remaining opened things up for the Muskies, who held the River Queens without a point for the final six minutes and 40 seconds and found their offense to earn their first win of the season.
“That’s the run we’ve been missing, and certainly the time period of the ballgame we’ve been missing it,” Orvis said. “I think a lot of it was we changed our tempo. We moved the ball just a bit better. We went inside out and moved the ball a tick better.
“We need to continue to keep that pace up.”