TRAVERSE CITY — The goal was for a fast start.
The St. Francis girls basketball team didn’t disappoint.
Behind a string of 24 straight points that stretched from the opening moments of the game until nearly midway through the second period, the Gladiators cruised to a 58-17 victory over previously-undefeated Leland on Monday at St. Francis High School.
St. Francis (4-1) wasted little time digging Leland a hole from which it could never climb out of when it used a stifling press and a huge advantage on the glass to roll off a 24-0 burst that put it in front 28-2 and took all the drama out of the future outcome. Even after Leland found a little offense in the second quarter it still went into the half trailing 36-13.
“I had a scout on them and I knew they had two really big, physical post players. I wasn’t prepared for how good they were,” Leland coach Megan Munoz said of the Gladiators. “I was actually surprised by the press because they haven’t been pressing.
“We never really recovered after they hit us hard.”
Juliana Phillips led the Gladiators offensively and on the boards, recording 15 points and 17 rebounds. Lauren McDonnell added nine boards for a St. Francis squad that regularly got second, third and fourth chances, while holding Leland to one shot on its end.
“Our boxing out and our defense was the key tonight,” said St. Francis coach Mike Knudsen, who added with a laugh, “We wouldn’t need so many rebounds if we would’ve made some of our shots to begin with.”
All kidding aside, Knudsen found plenty of things his team did that caused him to be happy.
“It was a really good team win,” he said. “Everybody from top to bottom played well tonight. Defensively the girls, right from the start, played well and got off to a quick start. They did a really good job. I’m very pleased.”
All eight St. Francis players who suited up scored. Suzanne Britten and Sarah Carney, the Gladiators other freshman post player, each added eight points.
Leland’s Libby Munoz, who came into the contest averaging over 23 points per game for the Comets (4-1), was held to eight.
“I thought this was going to be a really good marker because this is the first super-tough team we’ve played,” said Munoz. “It was going to be a good marker for how we’re handling pressure and how we’re going to do. We’ve got some things to work on.”
As well as the Glads looked, Knudsen said it wasn’t the best they could play.
“There’s plenty of room for improvement,” he said. “I saw lots of things we still can work on in practice. By no means are we not going to have things to work on.”
St. Francis also took the junior varsity game, 51-32. Colleen LaBonte had 22 points and Abby Brodeur 12 for the Gladiators. For Leland, Emma Richter had 10 points.