Following its only loss of the season – a blowout at the hands of No. 1 Crane – the No. 2 St. Paul girls basketball team came out last week and made a statement. The Bucks (20-1, 11-0 Casco League) surrendered 64 points in the Crane contest – a season-high – and were determined to make up for that with outstanding defensive performances in a pair of league contests.
St. Paul beat Perrydale 33-15 on Jan. 28 before destroying Jewell 62-13 on Jan. 31. The wins maintained the Bucks' undefeated record in league and was evidence of its anger regarding the Crane loss.
"The coaching staff, the players and everyone were pissed that we didn't defend Crane as well as we know we can," SPHS coach Dave Matlock said. "We gave up 64 points, which is the most points any team I've coached here has given up, and they weren't happy with that. The last two games were an anger response by them to be better defensively and unfortunately for Perrydale and Jewell they were in the firing line."
Fatigue from the Crane game carried over into the Perrydale game, Matlock said, but the lack of production offensively was made up for by a virtuoso performance on the defensive side of the ball. Even as it tried to slow the game down and keep St. Paul from getting out on the break – holding the Bucks to just 32 percent shooting – the Pirates couldn't score no matter what they tried.
At this point, Matlock is willing to boast an edge in all facets of the game over the rival Pirates, who have been unable to stop St. Paul in recent years.
"We have a mental advantage on Perrydale and I think we're a better team," Matlock said. "The mental edge is something we've had over them the last few years because they can't get over the hump and beat us. We hope to keep that going in the district title game, which will likely be us and them."
The Jewell contest was another easy ride for the Bucks. No league foe other than Perrydale has proven it can even play with St. Paul for stretches, and Jewell was no different on Friday.
A 49-point win is not a surprise given the talent and depth gap between the two teams. Jewell suited up just six players on Friday and was shut out in the first quarter.
"We shot a lot better in that game," Matlock said. "Jewell only had six kids and it was hard for them to keep up with our running game. We had three girls in double figures and one with nine. It was good to see the offense come back and return to what we know it can be."
St. Paul likely took care of business against Oregon School for the Deaf on Tuesday night after press time, setting up an endowment game for the Bucks next Monday that serves as a tune-up before the postseason.
The remaining two league games are not of concern, but St. Paul is looking forward to hosting 17-2 Mohawk in Feb. 10.
"It's going to be hard to stay focused down the stretch against teams we've handled pretty easily the first time," Matlock said. "We need to keep playing our best ball so we can be sharp once we play some tougher teams. That game against Mohawk is going to be a dog fight and we have to be ready for anything against them.
"They're a lot like us in a lot of ways and that will be great playoff prep for us."
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