LIBERTY - After a 30-point loss at home in its opener to Madison on Saturday, Howland knew it needed a big turnaround against Liberty.
The Tigers couldn't afford an 0-2 start before their clash on Monday at Warren G. Harding, and they made sure that didn't happen in dominating fashion. After scoring only 21 points the whole game against Madison, Howland surpassed that total in the first half against the Leopards in a 63-32 rout Thursday night.
"After our first game, I was a little concerned," Howland coach John Diehl said. "None of them ever started varsity and they're a little scared. I thought our defense was pretty good. They have a couple great players, (Leah Leshnack) and (Kim Staples). Both those girls are nice guards, and we definitely tried to take away their penetration. I think we did tonight."
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
Liberty’s Mackenzie Stanley, left, and Howland’s Taylor Ginnis fight for control of the ball during the first half of Thursday’s game at Liberty High School. The Tigers gave the Leopards their first loss of the season with a 63-32 setback.
After losing eight seniors from last season's team - including Taylor Williams, who now plays at Princeton University - Howland is looking to others to keep the Tigers one of the most successful girls programs in the area.
"I've got Taylor Ginnis and Gabby Cvengros as our team leaders," Diehl said. "That's who I'm hoping can pick up some slack."
Cvengros led the way for Howland (1-1) in the first 16 minutes of the game. She scored all 12 of her points in the first half, including consecutive baskets early in the first half that pushed the lead to 18-6 with 7:12 left. She later added another hoop on a layup off a long pass to extend the advantage to 25-11.
After Liberty (2-1) pulled within 25-15, the Tigers got four free throws from Trisha Ginnis to end the half with a 31-15 lead.
"In the first half, I felt like we gave up 10 too many points," Liberty coach Ron DeJulio said. "In the third quarter, we let it get away a little bit. In the first half is where we tried to play good defense."
The Leopards had plenty of chances for free points, but couldn't convert at the line. They shot 5 of 18 in the first half before improving to finish 12 of 29.
"We were horrible from the free-throw line, which would've kept it closer in the first half, maybe put a little more pressure on them," DeJulio said. "We've got to do better at that, and we've got do a better job at shooting. We're getting better, we've just got to improve in little areas."
Howland's defense held Liberty to single digits in all but the third quarter. Leshnack, who scored 47 points in the Leopards' first two games, was limited to just 10 by the Tigers.
Jordan Entler paced the scoring for Howland in the second half, scoring 10 of her 12 points. She hit a 3-pointer to open the third-quarter scoring and added another 3 later in the third for a 47-21 lead.
Howland hopes to start a winning streak Monday at Harding. The Raiders lost 60-33 to Lakeview in their opener, but Diehl isn't overlooking them.
"We watched them play Lakeview and they're very quick," he said. "They've got a couple really tall girls. We have to stop them from running. I think if we can stop them from running we have a shot at beating them in a half-court game."