KINGWOOD — Preston nabbed its fifth win in the last six games Jan. 25, as the Knights’ girls downed Liberty Harrison, 83-37, in front of a home crowd on Senior Night.
“It’s nice for the seniors, to get them in and let them come out one at a time,” PHS head coach Brian Miller said of Makenzie Friend, Taylor Mayne and Kirsten Brown. “We get to honor them one more time.”
The Knights struggled to score early, but a stifling defensive effort asphyxiated a lackluster Liberty offense, which has failed to produce more than 37 points in a single game this year.
“I thought we didn’t shoot well early, but I thought we did some other things well,” Miller said. “We just kind of wore ‘em down and wore ‘em down. They kept it close early, but we gradually pulled away.”
The stout PHS defense leveraged an athletic advantage and forced turnovers early and often, allowing the Knights’ transition offense to score quick buckets and open up the lead by 11 points as the first period ended.
“Defense is always a focus, but if you play hard defense, that transitions into offense, so defense is the main part of the game,” said Friend, a guard who piloted the Knights with
20 points on the evening. “[Coach] Miller just tells us to play really hard, up in their face and aggressive. Offense will come if we play good defense.”
Liberty also struggled in the post, as PHS crashed the offensive boards with vigor. Junior center Leah Clarkson and sophomore forward Kylie Felton combined to drop 29 points on the Mountaineers.
Clarkson used her size to force Liberty to change shots inside, and a tough rebounding effort opened up second chance points for the Knights from buzzer to buzzer.
“We’re working the post, and starting to get them some footwork,” Miller said of his team’s performance in the paint. “It’s nice to see some progression, so when we have those off nights shooting, we have another way to go.”
The win brings PHS to
6-2 in its last eight games, after a mediocre 3-3 start in the first six. Miller attributes the change in play to a young team gaining experience in late-game scenarios and learning to finish in the final moments.
“A lot of our games have been close, and I think early on, not being in that position, sometimes emotions and nervousness happen,” Miller said. “Recently, we’ve finished well. I think what’s happened in the 6-2 run in our last eight, in those final two or three minutes, we’ve been able to focus and concentrate and be more prepared.”
As Miller and the Knights head into the latter stretch of the season, they’ll face a slate of top ranked teams before entering one of the toughest sections in the state. They’ll face two teams that have earned consistent top five rankings all season.
“It’s nice to get hot now, because the competition level is going to be the hardest it’s been all year,” Miller said.
The Knights (9-5) return to action tonight, hosting Fort Hill (Cumberland, Md.) for a 7:30 p.m. start.