When Kennard-Dale High's girls took to the court Wednesday in Spring Grove, they had one focus in mind -- stop Morgan Arden.
Kennard-Dale's Taylor Davis had the unenviable task of guarding the Hanover area's leading scorer, who came into the game averaging 22.1 points per game.
After 32 minutes of frustrating play in which Davis dominated Arden, the area's leading scorer could only muster 4-for-24 shooting and a team-high 12 points. Her struggles offensively were representative of a Rocket team that had ample opportunities to score, but failed to find the basket.
Kennard-Dale (8-4), on the other hand, leaned on the shoulders of senior Sara Tarbert, who scored a game-high 27 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as the Rams defeated the Rockets, 44-37, in a nondivision contest.
"This is a very good win for us," Kennard-Dale head coach Jeff Stratmeyer said. "Taylor did an exceptional job on Morgan. I am so proud of her. She did such a good job. That was what we wanted to do. We came in with the goal of shutting her down and collapsing in the lane."
Arden did not score her first field goal until there was 3:53 left in the second quarter.
"We had made it an emphasis that we wanted to stop her," Davis said. "It feels good having had a game plan coming in and executing it the way we did. Our team played great defense."
It was that team defense, along with their job on the boards, that allowed the Rams to stave off a Rocket comeback. Kennard-Dale finished the night with 30 rebounds.
Despite the shooting struggles by Arden, the Rockets remained competitive throughout the game, due in large part to their defense. Spring Grove (5-6) forced Kennard-Dale into 27 turnovers, but struggled capitalizing.
"We just could not put the ball in the hoop," Spring Grove head coach Gerry Rohrbaugh said. "We had plenty of opportunities. Turnovers. Morgan having a bad night. You are going to have them, and tonight was one. I am very proud of our defense. We play well every game. We are just having trouble putting the ball in the hole."
Kennard-Dale's scoring barrage got started early as it jumped out to a 9-0 lead. Tarbert accounted for seven of the first nine points. Spring Grove did not get on the scoreboard until Morgan Hagerman hit a jumper with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter.
"We have been having some slow starts," Stratmeyer said. "It was really nice to have a quick start for a change."
The Rams held onto the lead from wire to wire with Spring Grove getting as close as five points twice. The latest was after Erika Gregory's free throw that cut the lead to 36-31. Tarbert responded by hitting a jumper to extend the lead to seven and to put it out of reach.
"Sara has the ability to step up like this for us all the time and it was nice to see tonight," Stratmeyer said.
"Starting off fast at the start of the game was big," Tarbert said. "If I start slow, I don't want to shoot. It definitely helps if I start off strong. It helps carry me through the entire game."
As far as the 27 turnovers go, Startmeyer was not concerned.
"It is something we are still working on," he said. "We are working toward our goals at the end of the season. As long as we keep improving, I am happy."
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Sara Tarbert 11 4-7, 27, Trott 4 0-2 8, Black 2 0-0 4, Davis 1 1-2 3, M. Duty 0 2-4 2, Driggers 0 0-0 0, L. Duty 0 0-0 0, . Totals18 7-15 44.
SPRING GROVE (37)
Morgan Arden 4 2-4 12, Gregory 3 3-6 9, Osborne 3 0-0 6, Hagerman 2 0-0 4, Madison 1 0-4 2, Kovacevic 0 2-2 2, Markle 1 0-0 2, Andrade 0 0-0 0
. Totals15 7-16 37.
Kennard-Dale 9 14 12 9 -- 44
Spring Grove 4 12 9 12 -- 37
3-point goals -- Kennard-Dale 1 (Sara Tarbert).
JV score -- Kennard-Dale 46, Spring Grove 40.