by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge senior wing Dayna Carlson had seven points and three assists for the Skyhawks in their Metro League win over Sunset.

Stunned by a budding, wet-behind-the-ears Sunset girls’ basketball that strutted around The Cage like it owned the joint, Southridge nearly succumbed to turnovers and untidy transition defense on Tuesday.

The fourth quarter, however, offered Southridge an opportunity to straighten out its setbacks. Ahead just 30-29 at the end of the third, the ailing Skyhawks were able to set aside three quarters of woes to ascend away from the Apollos with a 22-point fourth quarter gush that gave Southridge a 52-40 win.

Coming off a dispiriting loss to Jesuit in the Metro League opener, and suffering from illness and injury of key players on the roster, Southridge yearned for something positive to hang onto.

The final eight minutes of play, during which the Skyhawks moved the ball on offense and tightened the reins on Sunset’s flashy guards, was precisely what Southridge sought out.

“This game was much-needed,” said junior post Margaret Brock who led the Skyhawks with 15 points. “We have some really big games coming up. We lost to Jesuit (45-27 on Friday), but I think we needed this game to get that one out of our system and build up our confidence. We’ve had a rough week. Bethany (George) has a hurt knee, and Kaley (Fieldhouse) was out with the flu. Our team’s a mess right now, but we’re trying to come together. I think we can use this as a big asset against Westview (this Friday).”

Brock wasn’t exactly sure what trudged up Southridge offensively in the first half. Southridge trailed 6-0 early in the first quarter after Sunset scored twice on an offensive rebound and a Maddie Muhlheim coast-to-coast hoop.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset freshman guard Maddie Muhlheim led the Apollos with 19 points against Southridge on Tuesday.

Muhlheim, Rose Pflug, Genna Mettler and Laurie Salness were dynamic in the backcourt for the Apollos, constantly getting past the first and second levels of Southridge’s defense for striking scores at the rim.

Pflug and Muhlheim — two talented freshmen with fleet athleticism and tight handles— were just about impossible to stop from penetrating the lane. Pflug scored twice on blow-by lay-ups in the second quarter ,and Muhlheim curled around a baseline screen for a jumper that gave Sunset a 17-14 lead with 3:50 left in the second quarter.

Muhlheim led Sunset with 19 points. Salness had nine points.

“We realized we could get by them with the drive,” said Pflug, who finished with 11 points. “Once they figured it out, we knew that when their posts came and helped, that their posts would be open so we tried to hit them and the outside shooters.”

Southridge reclaimed a 21-14 advantage thanks to four quick points from Brock, but Muhlheim and Mettler scored on fastbreak hoops just before halftime to pull Sunset within 26-21 at halftime.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset senior post Megan Demots fights for an offensive rebound in the paint against Southridge.

“We’re definitely a running team,” said senior post Megan Demots. “We like to run and get good looks in transition. That helped us a lot in the first half.”

In the third, Sunset cut even more into the deficit when Muhlheim swished two triples in transition off drives and kicks from Salness and Pflug. Pflug’s two free throws with 3:07 left in the third handed the Apollos their final lead of the night, 29-28.

“Our guards are really fast, so we should really push in transition,” said freshman post Emily Demots. “We want to run the floor, so we can beat other teams down the floor.”

“Sunset is a younger team just like we are, but we underestimated them,” said Brock. “They’re a good team, and I definitely think they can compete. They had a great shooter (Muhlheim), and we just didn’t stop them in the middle when they’d come in for a floater. We didn’t know how to stop that in the first half.”

But, in the fourth, the 6-foot junior said the Skyhawks did a better job of slowing down their offense and executing their passes. Southridge’s turnovers were limited as well, yet Brock believed it was the Skyhawks’ attention to detail that sealed the deal in the final period.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge junior post Margaret Brock led the Skyhawks with 15 points in their first Metro League win of the year over Sunset.

Southridge limited Sunset to just six points in the final 4:30 of the fourth, while George swished back-to-back threes and Brock scored a righty hoop off a Dayna Carlson dish to go up 49-36.

Andie Giles’ free throw with 1:30 remaining gave Southridge a commanding 50-36 lead.

“Offense will work itself out,” said Brock. “But, if we have good defense we’ll have good offensive plays. We came in a low defensive stance with our hands up. We were more physical with them, and I think that was a big difference, more physical play down low.”

Pflug said Sunset got a lot of good looks on offense in the early going, but needs to cut down on its crunch-time turnovers against pressure.

“Our defense was really strong,” said Emily Demots. “I thought we played more as a team in those three quarters than in the fourth. We just need to come together more as a team.”

A bulk of Sunset’s young stars like Pflug and Muhlheim play AAU basketball during the summer, so they’re used to intensive atmospheres and hostile opponents trying to fluster them into poor decisions. So, while the Metro League is intense and high-level, the freshmen have been able to align their respective games to the competition.

“These girls have been great, and they work hard,” said Megan Demots. “That’s really all you can ask for.”

“Coming together as a team is hard to work on, but as we practice and play, it gets easier,” said Plug. “We had a couple of set defenses that we ran well, and I just think we need to cut down on the turnovers and keep coming together as a team.”

“We always go into these games expecting to win,” said Megan Demots. “That’s part of being more mature. We have a young team, and that comes with experience. It’s definitely a mental toughness kind of thing.”

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