Strong defense carries Mississinewa to third conference victory

Friday night’s contest between the Mississinewa Indians and the Blackford Bruins defined the quintessential gritty, grind-it-out, defensive battle. 

For the Indians, their offense never really got going. In fact, they knocked down just 12 of their 49 looks from the field in the contest. 

But their play on the defensive end of the floor made the difference, as they recorded their 11th victory of the season a 45-34 triumph. 

“The girls knew what was at stake today, and they went out and got it,” Mississinewa Head Coach Laura Friday said. “That’s the kind of year we’ve had. We’ve got these wins where we need them. 

“I’m so proud of these girls.” 

For the game, the Indians held the Bruins to just 12-of-56 shooting, which included a woeful eight-of-22 from beyond the arc.

The Indians and the Bruins played neck-and-neck in the first quarter. Blackford built an early 4-3 lead, but a Darah Watson three put the Indians up by two. Watson’s second field goal, combined with two free throws from Carly Bolser, made it a four-point advantage for the Indians before Waters tallied her second bucket to make it 11-9 after the first quarter of play.

Scoring continued to be scarce in the second quarter. The Indians turned the ball over on five straight possessions, but did not allow the Bruins to capitalize on those mistakes, allowing just one point which came via the charity stripe. The Indians ended the quarter on a 6-2 run, taking a 17-12 lead at halftime. 

The action began to pick up in the third quarter. After Leas opened the second half with a field goal, Mississinewa’s advantage was advanced to seven points by field goals from Bolser and Laekyn Emmons  Back-to-back threes from Waters trimmed the Indians’ lead down to one, but seven straight points for the Indians put them firmly back in control. 

Armed with a three-point advantage heading into the final frame, the Mississinewa defense put the game away. The Bruins took 16 shots in the final frame  but never got any closer than two, as the Indians held them to just two made field goals. 

“Defensively, we played amazing,” Friday said. “In the second half, we switched to our chaos and two and face-guarded [Leas] and [Waters]. I think that really affected their flow on offense.”

While their defense was clamping down, the Indians were able to put the game away at the charity stripe. Watson, Bolser, and Alayna Webb combined to knock down eight free throws in the final eight minutes to allow Mississinewa to secure the 11-point victory. 

Carly Bolser was tremendous throughout the game for the Indians, recording a double-double with 12 points and 14 rebounds. She dominated the smaller Blackford lineup, recording four offensive boards and giving the Indians a plethora of second and third chance opportunities.

 “The future is so bright with that kid,” Friday said. “Carly has been stepping up.”

Watson finished the game with 11 points, while Mia Catey, after not scoring in the first half, scored nine points in the final two quarters. 

Leas finished with 14 for Blackford, while Waters came away with 13.

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