Madison Keith ran as much as a cross-country competitor Friday night in Trinity Lutheran’s girls basketball game.
As soon as the ball hit the boards on defense she dashed for the Cougars’ basket. When the Cougars lined up in a half-court offense she cut down the middle.
The difference between hoops and cross-country, however, was that Trinity’s playmakers threw her a present every time to reward her being open and she obliged them by laying it in..
Keith, a 5-foot-9 freshman forward was the obvious beneficiary of Trinity’s new offense introduced after two days of instruction, hustling for 16 points in the team’s 71-57 victory over Brown County.
Coach Mike Lang took the bold step of force feeding a new offense in the middle of his 12-6 team’s season and the Cougars appeared to lap up the opportunities against a scrappy Eagles club that played much better than its 3-16 record.
Did Keith just turn and run for it?
“Basically,” she said. “We knew they were not the fastest team.”
“It’s an offense we’ve been working on for two days now,” Lang said. “We stayed with it consistently. It gives us an advantage with our shooters.”
Those shooters include guard Kailene Cockerham, a three-point whiz when she is hot, but was not at the beginning and heard the unfamiliar sound of “clank” off the rim. Then she heated up and nailed four of the long-range jumpers.
“The ball started falling,” said Cockerham, who finished with 12 points, all coming on those threes.
Lang said he was sure Cockerham’s shots would eventually fall because they always do.
“She’s a shooter,” Lang said. “We knew it was going to go in.”
Regardless, when it was need-a-hoop time, or need-an-assist time to flash the ball to one of those players cutting to the basket, Trinity relied on junior Bailey Tabeling.
When in doubt, give the ball to Tabeling.
“It always comes back to her,” Lang said. “She’s always our alpha.”
Trinity led 18-10 after the first quarter, 37-25 at halftime and 51-41 after three quarters. At times the Cougars seemed poised to run away with the game, but Brown County repeatedly cut the lead to eight or 10 points, until the latter stages.
The Cougars led by 15 points near the end of the third period and the biggest lead was 18 points shortly before the final buzzer.
Cockerham said the Eagles’ resistance was to be expected, so it was not particularly frustrating not to put them away.
“We knew they were going to be aggressive,” she said.
Tabeling, who scored a game-high 23 points, with just a few runs and the occasional three-pointer, mostly set up the offense, poked away loose balls on defense and seemed one step of the game in vision.
“She always tried to find the open player,” Lang said.
Tabeling was entrusted to run much of the new offense and Lang said he plans to stick with it for the rest of the season because he believes it will spread the floor and help Trinity against more physical teams.
“We’ve got to get kids open,” Lang said.
And for trying out something new, the Cougars put up a satisfying 71 points.