Lady Eagles Grind Out Win Against Oakville

Sullivan matched their best six-game start since 2007 Thursday with a 36-30 victory over Oakville.

Bria Jones led all scorers with 12 points in a game defined by defense, Sullivan’s calling card this early in the season.

Clare Shetley and Mallory Shetley each had 11 points and Katie Creek scored two.

With the win, Sullivan improved to 6-0 and five of the six have come by six points or less. The Lady Eagles have played a rough and tumble schedule out the gate. Three nights after a bruising overtime win against Waynesville, Sullivan matched up with another opponent looking to be as physical as allowed.

Oakville worked to control Sullivan inside and after trailing throughout the game, finally overtook the Lady Eagles in the third quarter.

Sullivan trailed 26-24, but an 11-point surge in the final period gave them the boost they needed to remain unbeaten.

Head coach Jason Merkel said the team had to rely on its defense on a night where the offense just couldn’t click. Oakville worked to stop Clare Shetley and Mallory Shetley in the post and it created issues, Merkel said.

“We only hit one 3-pointer, we were 6-for-16 at the free throw line…it was just a complete struggle,” Merkel said of his team, possibly battling fatigue after a gauntlet of early season opponents. “Even our inside game…our inside looks rimmed out. The tough games we’ve played may be catching up to us.”

Merkel didn’t hold practice Friday as the players rested up over the weekend for the sixth annual Peoples Bank Holiday Classic. The tournament tipped off Monday with Sullivan as the No. 1 seed.

While the offense still searches for a consistency, the defense has been a fallback.

“Overall, defensively, we were really good,” Merkel said. “Any time you can hold a team like Oakville to 30 points you feel like you did your job.”

Sullivan limited the Tigers to just 25 percent shooting and kept them without a 3-pointer on eight attempts.

Guard Emily Kuntze, who averaged nearly 14 points per game, was held to just three and without a field goal. Merkel compared Kuntze to Jones, saying she was quick with good ball handling skills. Sullivan focused on shutting her down and it paid off.

“We keyed on her,” he said. Kuntze shot 0-for-7 from the field and bricked all five 3-point attempts.

The Lady Eagles used a press for the first time this season, looking to create some momentum. “It got away from us a little in the third quarter,” Merkel said. After taking an 18-11 lead into the break, Sullivan was outscored 15-6 to start the second half.

“Once we cleaned the press up, got our rotations and slides down, we outscored them 12-4 in the fourth quarter,” Merkel said.

Oakville entered Thursday’s game 4-1 with their only loss coming against Pattonville one night earlier. Merkel was unsure how good Oakville truly was since their schedule didn’t rival Sullivan’s, but stressed how tough it can be to play in another gym and with a target on their backs.

“We’re going to be everyone’s biggest game,” said Merkel, whose team is ranked No. 7 in Class 4.

Sullivan Independent News

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