ELWOOD — With Shenandoah ranked No. 6 in the first Class 2A girls basketball poll of the season and Elwood returning no players who averaged over 5.5 points per game last season, the outcome of their season-opening game was very predictable.
Although the Raiders did not play their best, it was plenty good enough as Shenandoah blanked Elwood in the first half and scored the first 32 points of the game in rolling to a 55-12 win Thursday.
Both teams had flaws that could stem from playing the season opener. Elwood turned the ball over 28 times, including 11 in the first quarter, while Shenandoah struggled to make open shots.
But the Raiders exploited their advantage on the interior as junior Erikka Hill continually found position. With the ball in her hands, she scored 12 points and found her teammates with seven assists. Defensively, she gave the Panthers fits with six steals as well.
She posed the same mismatch dilemma for Elwood she will for most opponents of Shenandoah.
“We can’t simulate that in practice unless I’m doing it,” said Elwood coach Craig Brunnemer said, who stands 6-foot-6. “At halftime, I said obviously we weren’t going to win the game. We just have to keep competing.”
While the Raiders were strong defensively, the offense struggled at times hitting shots.
“We’ve got some areas we need to improve,” Shenandoah coach Dameon Wyatt said. “And that’s what we’ll do. We’ll work on it one day at a time.”
Bookend 3-point shots from junior Rachel Soden opened and closed the first-half scoring, but the Raiders’ duo of Hill and junior Kathryn Perry scored 19 of the 32 first-half points.
Perry finished with 18 points while Hill finished with 12 points to go with 16 rebounds, drawing plenty of praise from Brunnemer.
“Perry and Hill are tremendous, great competitors,” the Elwood coach said. “You can’t teach that. Hill is a volleyball stud, basketball star and a state shot put champ, and Perry is just a great guard.”
Senior Sydney Scott ended the drought for the Panthers with a basket in the lane at the 7:02 mark of the third quarter. She finished with five points and 10 rebounds for a Panthers team that did not stop competing.
“They didn’t quit, and I think that’s the biggest thing,” Brunnemer said. “Wins and losses this year, I have no idea. But if we can compete every night and our fans know that, then I think the fans will keep coming back. We could have quit, but we didn’t.”
Wyatt said the defense, which had 18 steals and caused numerous deflections and poor passes, can carry the day while the kinks in the offense are worked out.
“We’ll work at it. We’ve got another week to get ready,” Wyatt said. “We just have to finish at the basket, and our spacing was poor, but we’ll get better at that.”
The Shenandoah junior varsity team defeated Elwood 40-10 behind 12 points from sophomore Hannah Zody. Freshmen Yzabelle Ramey and Kenzee Garringer led the Panthers with three points each.