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Still striving for perfection, the Barton Lady Bulldogs remained perfect in the loss column with their eighth straight victory, an 84-61 defeat of North Greenville on Saturday.
In Barton’s Conference Carolinas opener at Wilson Gym, the Lady Bulldogs exceeded their season averages in nearly every major statistical category as they ended a three-game run of what head coach Wendee Saintsing intimated was sub-par play.
“This afternoon we played a lot better than the last three games, so I was glad to see that,” she said. “Defensively, I thought our effort was good today and offensively, we did some good things. Sometimes we’re settling for too many 3s when we should be working the ball in a little bit. And they beat us to a lot of 50/50 balls that we need to do better on. So, all in all, it was a pretty good game. I think that we’re off on the right foot now, so we’ve just got to continue.”
Barton, which never trailed, scored the first five points and lead a 14-2 lead a little more than halfway through the first quarter. The Lady Bulldogs shot 44.1 percent (30 of 68) from the floor and connected on 8 of 22 shots from 3-point range (36.4 percent) while yanking down 51 rebounds and handing out 20 assists. Senior Kianna Wynn led the way again with 21 points on 8 of 20 shooting while junior guard Summer Baer had a career-high 17 points, including 5 of 11 on 3-point shot attempts.
Senior Dinah Neal added 12 points and eight assists while 6-foot-2 sophomore Shanika Peterkin, the reigning Conference Carolinas Player of the Week, had eight points, a game-high 13 rebounds and five blocks.
Wynn hit a layup and Baer swished a 3-pointer for Barton’s first points. The Crusaders (2-5, 1-1 CC) cut the lead to three points before Neal’s jumper gave the Lady Bulldogs a 20-15 lead at the end of the first quarter. Wynn and Baer scored all the points in a 19-5 run in the second quarter that saw Barton’s lead ballon to 44-23 on Baer’s fourth trey of the half.
“It’s nice when we have that element (3-point shooting) but we still work inside out,” Baer said. “Once we get Kianna going, everyone then, that gets us going.”
Saintsing could live with the eight 3-pointers but she reminded that, with a mostly young roster with nine first-year players, including eight freshmen, the Lady Bulldogs are going to thrive running their fast break and funneling the ball inside to Wynn and Peterkin in the half-court set.
“I think making better decisions — knowing when to take a shot, knowing when not to take a shot,” Saintsing said when asked where the most pressing area of improvement lies with her team. “Knowing our priorities out on the court. We want to go with our first priority first and if we have to take our last priority, that’s another thing. Sometimes I think that we’re settling for our fourth or fifth option versus our first and second option at times. That’s just a matter of learning. We’ve got some young kids out on the court so they’ve just got to learn.”
Two of the freshmen, guard Akira Wiggins and post Jami Tham, each netted eight points despite playing limited minutes in the blowout.
Barton’s only shortcoming was a 16-of-26 showing at the free-throw line.
Savannah Hughes had 15 points to lead the Crusaders, who shot just 32.4 percent (22 of 68) from the floor.
Barton continues Conference Carolinas play Tuesday against Belmont Abbey in the mid-point of an eight-game homestand, the longest of the season for the Lady Bulldogs, who look to keep striving for perfection.
“I haven’t seen any complacency whatsoever and I hope we never see that because we’re not good enough for that,” Saintsing said.
Perhaps, as Baer suggested, because they haven’t allowed it.
“It’s definitely exciting,” she said of the 8-0 start, “but not surprising because we work really hard in practice.”