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Girls basketball: Defensive switch helps Highlanders slip past Patriots

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Locked in a see-saw battle with eighth-ranked George Washington on Wednesday night, veteran Huntington High School girls basketball Coach Lonnie Lucas was not sure he wanted to change his defense.

He tinkered with the idea a little in the waning minutes of the first half before deciding to come out of the Highlanders trademark two-three zone and start the second half in a man-to-man defense.

Lucas' move turned out to be just what Huntington needed as the sixth-ranked Highlanders (8-3) rallied from a one-point halftime deficit to defeat the host Patriots 69-50.

"We don't play everyone man," said Lucas, the only girls basketball coach the school has had since it opened as a consolidation of Huntington East and old Huntington High in 1996. "But we tried it a little the last two minutes before the half and did all right."

George Washington (5-3) took a 30-29 lead into halftime on 11-of-24 shooting that included 5-of-10 from 3-point range.

"The first two quarters were generally good," Patriots' Coach Jamie LaMaster said. "Especially in the first quarter we were getting good looks."

That all changed when the Highlanders changed defenses, as they scored the first 11 points of the third period.

George Washington did not score until Rachel Ward hit a bucket with 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

"We got outscored 16-5 in the third," said LaMaster, whose team was 2-for-11 in the third, both by Ward. "Every other quarter was manageable.

"We have a difficult time creating shots. We have to screen and double screen and be ready to catch and shoot."

After being able to find the creases in Huntington's zone and get set for open shots for the first 16 minutes, George Washington players had a tough time making that adjustment.

"It took a lot out of them," Lucas said. "It took them a little extra time to get off a 3-pointer."

A Ward 3-pointer cut the Highlanders' lead to eight points but with time slipping away the Patriots were forced to foul and the lead began to swell.

Huntington players hit 11-of-13 free throws in the fourth quarter.

That was a welcome change for a Highlander squad that had lost three games by a total of five points this season.

"We're trying to get on track," Lucas said. "We've been struggling at the foul line and we get to the foul line a lot."

Erica Budd paced Huntington with 18 points while Kianna Evans added 15.

Ward led George Washington with 18 points Alanna Mobayed contributed 10.


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