KINGMAN - As is the case with most teams in their first game, mistakes and miscues happened far more frequently for the Kingman High girls basketball team than they remember them occurring during practice.
But by the end of the first half, the Lady Bulldogs had control of Tuesday night's season opener and continued to improve throughout the game to beat Lake Havasu, 62-54.
"We were pretty sloppy and I expect it to get better, but a win's a win," Kingman head coach Darrin Peppard said. "They picked up on what Havasu wanted to do and the defensive effort really improved in the last three quarters."
Trailing by as much as 10 early in the second quarter, Kingman (1-0) turned things around quickly despite having starting point guard Tennil Reed on the bench and a technical foul called on Peppard. The Lady Bulldogs held the Knights without a field goal in the final 6:22 of the quarter and went on a 13-2 run to take a 33-31 lead at halftime.
"Sometimes you have to get that technical," Peppard said. "And I won't say that's what turned the game around, but we changed our focus and they settled in. They didn't hang their heads and they didn't freak out and they managed to keep battling."
The Bulldogs lost the lead momentarily during the third quarter, but broke down Lake Havasu's full-court press for a number of easy layups to go on an 8-0 run and build a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter that the Knights could not overcome.
And while the Bulldogs came away with the win, Peppard said he will not let his team forget the areas that nearly cost them the game. Kingman committed 20 turnovers, most of them coming on bad passes and poor decisions trying to push the ball up the court. The Bulldogs lost the battle on the boards despite having an obvious height advantage, and only made 13 of their 28 free throws while sending Lake Havasu to the line 29 times.
"We have got to work on rebounding," Peppard said. "I hope we can come out of this game with the thought in our head that we have to keep our hands to ourselves." he said.
Watching much of the first half from the sidelines with three fouls of her own, Reed still led Kingman with eight points in the half and scored 10 more for a game-high 18 points, including the two baskets that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good in the third quarter and secured the win late in the fourth. Reed said her team started playing better once they calmed down and played at their own pace.
"I think we're not all used to playing with each other yet," she said. "We have five new girls that haven't played with us before, and it will take a while to get used to playing with them."
Of the new girls, Jessie Ramirez, Kristen Gonzalez and Amanda Graymountain combined for 15 points off the bench and played key roles at critical moments
"Danielle Hale and Jessie Ramirez gave us that defensive presence that we didn't have without Tennil," Peppard said. "Kristen Gonzalez did some good things and Amanda Graymountain gave us a great contribution in the fourth quarter."
Four of Lake Havasu's players finished in double figures, led by Sara Bartel's 13 points with three 3-pointers. Kingman's Ashley Caswell had nine points and Kamber Butler and Gonzalez each had eight points.
With the first game jitters out of the way, the Lady Bulldogs will begin preparing today for their first road game against Westview on Friday.
"We're going to do a lot of running this week because we're all out of shape," Reed said. "We have to work on rebounding too. If we would have been rebounding, this game would have been over in the first quarter."