Preventing points has been the name of the game for New Oxford's girls basketball team so far this season, and the Colonials used a suffocating defense to blow past visiting South Western, 63-28, on Friday night.
New Oxford (4-0) held the Mustangs to 12-of-51 (23.5 percent) shooting from the field and held a 46-29 rebounding edge.
The victory was keyed by a 46-8 run that saw the hosts go from trailing 14-11 with five minutes to go in the second quarter to leading 57-22 with five minutes left in the game. New Oxford outscored South Western 25-4 in the third quarter to break open a nine-point game at intermission.
The third quarter has been a good quarter for the Colonials all season long. In four games, they've allowed a total of 18 points in the frame.
"We focus and try to stick to our game plan, which is tough defense," coach James Kunkle said. "We pace ourselves in the first half and try to unleash after halftime."
Senior Kaelyn Long added, "We do a lot of focusing on defense in practice, and Coach tells us that if we do it well, we can get the ball back and play offense."
A big advantage for Kunkle's squad is having all but one player back from last season. Carly Rippeon, a backup post player a year ago, had enough credits to graduate early and chose to prepare for college, eschewing her senior year on the hardwood.
"We'll miss Carly, she was a big body to have to put in there and helped us defensively and in rebounding," Kunkle said. "But she had the opportunity to get ready for college and I don't blame her for taking it."
In each of the past three District 3 tournaments, the Colonials were eliminated in the second round after winning their opener. They lost to eventual state champion Cumberland Valley in 2014 and 2015, and last season they fell to Governor Mifflin, which was district runner-up to Cumberland Valley.
This year, the goals are higher for New Oxford.
"I still believe that Central York and Red Lion are the teams to beat in (YAIAA Division I)," Kunkle said. "But we expect to contend for the division, make a run in counties and districts and hopefully make the state tournament."
After competing in the state's top classification (AAAA) the previous three years, the Colonials find themselves in 5A this year.
"When I came here before last year, I was told that there would be no seniors on the team," Kunkle said. "Having the whole team back this year is awesome. The continuity that it creates is big. We spent the first half of last season installing a new system and this year it was just picking up where we left off and adding a few things to it."
Count South Western coach Kevin Klunk among those impressed by New Oxford this season.
"We felt okay at halftime, down by nine, but we couldn't do anything in the third quarter," Klunk said. "We went from being ahead in the second quarter to getting run off the floor. They've played together for so long and they play together really well. They're a veteran group and nothing really fazes them."