MONROE — At the offensive end, Monroe team was sometimes good, sometimes not so good against visiting Everett on Wednesday night.
But defensively the Bearcats were pretty good at the start and then they just kept getting better in a 42-33 non-conference girls basketball victory over the previously unbeaten Seagulls.
Trailing 21-15 midway through the second quarter, Monroe used a pesky, persistent defense to pull ahead and then pull away. The Bearcats allowed Everett seven field goals in the first 11/2 quarters, but just one in the next 11/2 quarters.
The Seagulls had three field goals in the fourth period, giving them just four for the game’s final 20 minutes.
“I thought our effort was fantastic defensively,” Monroe coach Matt Chalfant said. “Our No. 1 goal was to come out and give a fantastic (defensive) effort and I think we accomplished that.”
“I told the girls before the game this would be the toughest defense we’ve faced so far,” Seagulls coach John Low said.
The teams traded leads in the game’s early minutes, but Everett used a 9-0 second-quarter scoring burst to open up a six-point lead. But at that point the Bearcats tightened their defense, and they ended up forcing Everett into a series of turnovers and difficult shots.
“I’m a big effort guy and I preach effort every day in practice,” Chalfant said. “And defense is one of those things where if you give great effort, you’re going to get stops.
“We spend 30 to 45 minutes every day on defense at practice. It’s at the beginning of our practice, too, so it’s our No. 1 goal.”
Monroe, which led 24-23 at halftime, swung the game by outscoring the Seagulls 15-4 in the third quarter. The Bearcats did it mostly with free throws, converting nine of 13 chances at the stripe in that period.
“Offensively we were struggling a little bit on some of our sets, but that’s what practice is for,” Chalfant said. “Down the stretch in the fourth quarter we only scored three points, but that’s something that can be fixed in practice.”
Trailing 39-27 heading to the final quarter, Everett never quit. The Seagulls opened the period with two quick field goals to draw within eight points, and had a one-and-one chance at the free throw line moments later that could have cut the deficit to six.
But the first free throw missed and Everett went scoreless for the next four minutes. A late layin by junior guard Sidney Rielly did trim the lead to six, but the Bearcats scored three times from the free throw line in the last minute to raise the final margin back to nine.
“I thought we played hard,” Low said. “I knew they were a good team, so I knew it was going to be a tough battle. I told the girls after the game that I was disappointed in the outcome, but not disappointed in the effort.”
Guards Tiffany Ohlsen and Breezy Shore led the Bearcats with nine points apiece.
Rielly led all scorers with 16 despite a flu bug that kept her from practicing on Tuesday. “Sidney Rielly is tough. She’s absolutely tough,” Chalfant said. “But I thought the girls did a great job on her, especially (post) Ashley Alexander. She switched on to her (defensively) and gave a fantastic effort.”
Everett post Amber Hagar had 14 rebounds.
Both teams now prepare for the start of Western Conference play. Everett has a bye on Friday and does not start its league schedule until next Wednesday, but Monroe has a tough Wesco opener at Arlington on Friday.
“Any league game is going to be a big game, so I’m not going to hype this one up,” Chalfant said of the early-season showdown with the unbeaten Eagles. “We’re just going to go about our business as we would any game, but we have to understand that Arlington is a fantastic opponent and we have to be prepared.”