Playing against a much bigger school was a relatively new experience for the Life Christian girls basketball team, but they did not seem intimidated by their environment. Taking a big first-half lead, the Eagles withstood a late surge by Stadium for a 41-35 win over the Tigers on the road in their season opener on Nov. 30.
“(It’s an) exciting win for the girls,” said Life Christian head coach Robert Normandeau. “This is what we’ve been working on for three years, trying to build our program to where we can start playing at this level.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 10-0 lead just three minutes into the game on Johnnise Moore’s rebound and put-back, and led 12-5 heading into the second. Moore added three early baskets in the second quarter to build the lead to 20-5, and it was a 23-9 advantage at the half after the Tigers’ Amber Longrie hit a two-point jumper at the buzzer.
“In the first half, we just didn’t get a lot of shots off, and when we did we missed,” said Stadium head coach Mark Stewart.
Longrie helped Stadium get off to a quick start in the third quarter with a three-pointer, and teammate Felisha Bradley added a three of her own to cut the deficit to 23-15. But Life Christian’s Taylor Boles answered with a layup at the other end, and built the lead back to 32-19 with a three-point play later in the third. Trailing 34-21 heading into the final quarter, Carli Hallis brought the Tigers back within 36-29 with four buckets in just over three minutes. The senior forward scored 12 of the Tigers’ 14 points in the period, and pulled Stadium within 38-33 with a layup with three minutes left.
“Her motor never quits,” Stewart said. “We never have to worry about that. The team just fed off her toward the end of the game.”
Shaya Murray’s layup after a steal later pulled the Tigers within 39-35 with just over a minute left, but Boles sealed the win for the Eagles with two free throws on the other end.
Moore finished with 16 points and six rebounds for Life Christian, while Boles had 12 points, Maddy Long added eight points and freshman Courtney Youngblood was impressive in hauling in a game-high 12 rebounds.
“Offensively we did okay, but the defense is I think what really set us apart,” said Normandeau, adding that Moore and Youngblood should be a formidable combo in the middle this season.
Hallis led the Tigers with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Bradley had eight points and Kallie Broughton had five points and seven rebounds for Stadium.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Life Christian,” Stewart said. “Fundamentally, they played as good as any team I think we’ll face all year. Those girls boxed out, they were in the chair on defense, they were in the passing lanes. It was a really great game to be a part of."