Girls Basketball: Exeter’s defense leads them to sixth win of season

The Monarchs struggle against Selma but defeated Hanford West to improve to 2-2 in the CSL

By Jermaine Johnson II

EXETER – It was a tale of two halves for the Monarchs against Selma last Tuesday. They were down 36-15 at halftime but only allowed 13 points in the second half. The deficit was too much to overcome as Selma went on to win 49-34. 

The Bears were on fire from the field in the first quarter. Their hot shooting was capped with a buzzer beating three-pointer at the end of the period to go up 19-5. Exeter’s offense was able to penetrate Selma’s defense and beat their full court press, yet they couldn’t make the most of it with an all-around poor shooting performance. Senior Jaycie Wilkinson did a solid job of facilitating the offense, but her teammates failed her on several assists. No Monarch finished in double digits of scoring as senior Haylee McFall led the way with 9 points and 7 assists. 

“We were rushing things; we do a good job on defense then come down and rush things on offense rather than being patient. All of the energy that we put in down there [on defense] didn’t transfer to [offense] because we got in a hurry,” Exeter head coach Justin Soutbard said. “When we slowed down and started executing on offense then we got away from it on defense. We have to be balanced and put together four quarters of good basketball.”

The best offensive showing for the Monarchs came in the third quarter, but it only translated to 11 points. They won the battle in the low scoring second half but the offense couldn’t match Selma’s scoring outburst of the first half.  Despite the hot shooting from the Bears, Soutbard was pleased with how his defense played throughout the night.

“Defensively we did some positive things. We have to continue to push the notion that a good situation with defense will help create offense and not the other way around.”

Last Thursday, the Monarchs went on to defeat Hanford West 44-38. Their offensive output was a bit better, but it was their defense that led them to victory as they allowed 10 points or less in three of the four quarters. Wilkinson dominated, finishing with 20 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. Mcfall added 5 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks.

This week, the Monarchs will close out the first round of Central Sequoia League games. They’ll play Kingsburg at home Wednesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. before traveling to Dinuba on Friday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. One day later they’ll play Hoover before beginning the second round of league games next week. Their 2-2 record in the league has them sitting in a three-way tie for second place with Central Valley Christian and Kingsburg. Soutbard believes that his team has to be sure not to look past any team moving forward. That is especially true for the Cavaliers which is a team they comfortably swept last season but then lost to by three points earlier this year.

“Our league is essentially wide open, and we have another round [to play]. We can’t hang our heads about what hasn’t happened and we can’t look too far ahead over anybody,” he said.

In practice, the coach plans to focus heavily on knocking down shots with the hope that his team can muster more points.

“We’re going to work on shooting form, slowing down and not rushing ourselves when we get open. We have a saying in our program: slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” Soutbard said. “If you slow down and you do it right, you’ll be smoother once you pick up the pace. We have to get back to that so when we do good things [on defense] we can reward ourselves with good buckets on the other side.”

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