Mission Prep senior point guard Jenna Dunbar couldn’t do anything else but sit and observe during the last four minutes of the first half in her girls basketball team’s nonconference showdown with Templeton on Friday night, feeling helpless because she had just picked her up third foul.
Her coach, John Krossa, was so concerned that he crouched down in front of Dunbar and spoke to her for a few moments, even though the game was going on behind his back.
But it wasn’t until a halftime talk with teammate Bri Harvey that changed Dunbar’s outlook, providing a much-needed boost that guided the Royals to an overpowering second half and a 44-31 win at Mission Prep’s Cowtiz Court in front of a few hundred fans.
Dunbar powered through her slow start with 12 of her 14 points in the final two quarters, when the Royals (13-1) were able to hold Templeton (12-5) — with an all-sophomore starting lineup — to just 13 points. Harvey, the 5-foot-10 senior center, finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and five steals, and senior Kaylee Williams added eight points and nine rebounds.
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“I had a talk with Bri at the half and she told me to calm down and to get my head back in it,” said Dunbar, whose Royals put aside an 18-17 halftime deficit with a relentless man-to-man defense the rest of the way. “I had to trust myself.”
Krossa noticed a different Dunbar in the second half.
“As a player, when you’re struggling and when your coach calls your number,” he said, referencing an isolation play in the third quarter, “she started attacking. She was aggressive and went in for a layup.”
Mission Prep opened the third quarter with a 12-4 run and forced Templeton’s top scorer, guard Lauren Stuedemann (a game-high 17 points), to pick up her fourth foul with a minute left in the period. Mission Prep produced a 15-6 third quarter for a 32-24 lead and outscored the Eagles 27-13 in the second half.
The Royals began rebounding and collecting steals and didn’t allow Templeton to be a factor on the offensive boards. And they also finished by playing clean defense, as both teams combined for 29 fouls.
“We needed to stop fouling,” Harvey said. “That was putting us under in the first half. After we stopped fouling, we were fine.”
Templeton seemed to be doing everything right in the first half, which featured 10 lead changes and four ties. Stuedemann scored eight of her points in that span, but the Eagles couldn’t get things going in the final two quarters.
No other Templeton player finished in double digits, with Mari Stewart recording the team’s second-best scoring night at six points.
“I don’t think our momentum was there,” said Stuedemann, one of the five starting sophomores. “We weren’t as pumped as we were in the first half. They were running the ball very quickly. Jenna hit 3s and it was hard for us to guard.”
“We’re still learning. We’re still improving.”