KETTERING —Beavercreek got a chance to compete in the spotlight at the Flyin’ To The Hoop showcase on Saturday and put its newfound grit on display to the fullest.
A 42-31 win against Springboro has the Beavers in the thick of the race at the top of the Greater Western Ohio Conference girls basketball standings, but its only the tip of the iceberg for how they’ve gotten there.
Following a difficult stretch to open the season with three non-conference games against several top opponents, Beavercreek found itself with a 1-2 record and work to do in improving their own defensive stature.
Since that point, a steady increase of defensive tenacity has been showing up each night by the Beavers and it has led to a successful run in league play. Beavercreek is now 7-2 in the GWOC after Saturday’s win, which in of itself was another barometer at how quickly they have developed.
“They beat us by 19 and kind of embarrassed us,” head coach Aric Seilhamer said of the first meeting with Springboro.
Saturday’s rematch certainly was a high point of how far the team has come in the last month-plus of play. Beavercreek got off to a good start by not allowing a point over the initial four minutes, but still found itself trailing 8-5 at the end of the first after a buzzer beating three capped a run of five points allowed in the final 31 seconds.
In the second quarter a statement was made. Over the eight minutes, the Beavers unofficially combined to deflect shots and force turnovers on more than 10 of Springboro’s possessions. Several of those instances led to fast breaks and easy baskets or chances at the free throw line. When the quarter wrapped, Beavercreek held ‘Boro scoreless on the way to a 17-0 period.
“We came out with nothing to lose,” Lilli Leopard said. “We came out high energy and strong and we just really wanted to win.”
The Beavers didn’t let up from there, as after allowing two early baskets to start the third, they once again held the Panthers off the scoreboard for the final six-plus minutes of the quarter.
Springboro just 10 days prior in the first meeting between the two teams owned the paint and coupled with ‘Creek’s struggles to shoot from outside, turned the game into the largest defeat of the season for the Beavers.
Seilhamer said starting with his team’s next outing, he has seen his girls turn a corner and opt in even more to the toughness he wanted them to develop.
“I think the kids had to see the success themselves,” he said. “We kept saying it’s going to work. You know, they don’t always believe adults.”
With a mentality to force 20 turnovers per game, which it successfully did against Springboro, Beavercreek is in a stretch of allowing a shade under 40 points per game following its opening two losses. Seilhamer said it has been discussed in practice that defense is where the team’s mentality has to begin in order for it to win games and they have begun to reach that realization.
“The girls have started to realize that it’s not so much on them to score and on them to do what they do best and it’s more the team needs to work together and connect in different ways,” Seilhamer said. “The ball will find a way to work to the person that needs to score.”
Players like Mia Patterson are setting the tone on the court. She is one of four players to currently be averaging more than 1.5 steals per game, along with Leopard, Liv Walther and Charlotte Paulding.
“Defense is my favorite part of the game,” Patterson said. “I like running the point guard position, but most of the time if I cause a turnover then it creates scoring for more people and getting more opportunities. I feel like everyone has kind of bought into that now.”
You can see it on Patterson’s face with a constant look of determination on display as the ball crosses the halfcourt line. Beavercreek knew it would play hard, but it has taken time to learn about playing with a philosophy of persistent coverage of the court.
After handing Springboro its first league loss of the season, they now have all the evidence needed the work is paying off.