John Ainslie has been around basketball long enough to recognize when his defense does the trick — and when the opponent was just a fraction out of sorts.
It didn’t matter how the job got done — his undermanned Bethel girls got out of University Place with a 42-33 victory over 10th-ranked Curtis on Tuesday night in South Puget Sound League South Division basketball action.
Ninth grader Tianna Brown tallied 18 points — 15 coming in the second half. And senior Me’osha Mack added 15 points as the Braves (7-3, 5-0) took over sole possession of first place in the division.
But as Ainslie strolled off the court, staring hard at the scoreboard and in slight disbelief 42 points would be enough — he also was keen on a big culprit.
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“They were off,” Ainslie said. “We pride ourselves on our defense, but they were off a little bit. They have too much talent to just score 33 points.”
Try this: of the 58 field goal attempts the Vikings (8-4, 3-1) put up, they missed 50 of them.
And on every shot outside the free throw line, open or not, they missed all of them.
Brown was brilliant in the fourth quarter, sinking a pair of crucial 3-pointers. But Mack was the difference. She was the disruptor.
“She is the best athlete I have ever had,” Ainslie said. “She can jump out of the gym. She pulled us out a few times.”
On one move midway through the fourth quarter, she lulled two Curtis defenders toward her on the left wing, then drove right around. She took on a third Vikings player, and banked in a short shot to give the Braves a 32-24 lead.
Curtis just never could hit shots down the stretch — making 1 of 14 field goals in the fourth quarter. And Bethel, which was missing two starters because of injuries, made 7 of 10 free throws in the final 1:08.
“It was a very big win,” Mack said. “We practiced hard yesterday, and said we had to play defense, run our plays and make sure everything was right.”