HINCKLEY — Avery Zabel gave the Hinckley-Big Rock Royals girls basketball team a needed boost on a night where bricked shots were frequent in a 30-18 win over LaMoille-Ohio.
Zabel broke an 11-11 tie in the third quarter with an offensive rebound and layup, sparking a run of three straight Royals possessions with a bucket as Hinckley-Big Rock (13-6, 3-1 Little Ten Conference) went on an 8-0 run that stretched into the fourth quarter.
“Ashleigh (Wackerlin) and I are strong in the paint and we know that we are," Zabel said. "Our defense is our core and if we get those defensive rebounds, we can just book it and go and score points, and that’s what we love doing.”
After Tessa Prellberg scored on an inbound pass from Morgan King early in the fourth — the Royals went up eight on the play — LaMoille-Ohio's Emma Lundquist sank a 3-pointer to pull the Lions (2-14, 0-4) back within five points, 19-14.
But back came the Royals, scoring on three straight possessions again with each Sydney Razo-Ewan, Zabel and Prellberg each scoring in the paint. The Royals grew their lead to 25-14 early in the fourth.
“Our mentality in the first quarter was down," Zabel said. "But then we started to pick up once we started running and having fast breaks, having steals, that's what we’re best at.”
After several Royals stops, Zabel scored once more as the Royals gained control, leading 27-14 with just over five minutes to go Zabel scored nine points, eight of which came in the second half.
“She’s critical in there for us," Brewington said of Zabel. "There’s certain games where our speed kills and tonight they had some athletes so we couldn’t run as much and even if we did we didn’t finish. So games like that we make it a point of emphasis."
Prellberg, who had a game-high 16 points, scored all six points in a 6-0 first quarter for the Royals on a rough shooting night.
“It comes down to the energy and the mental," Brewington said. "Today it was just mental. All mental. We got down on ourselves and they think they’re playing bad so they put their head down, but what they don’t realize is that when they put their head down, they play bad. It’s tough to snap their heads out of that.”
Kylee Brown helped keep the Lions in the game, scoring five of her team-high 12 points in the second quarter as LaMoille-Ohio went into halftime trailing 9-8.
“After we figured out that press and figured we could break it, they did alright and hit some shots," Lions first-year coach Jim Brandau said.
The Lions flustered the Royals early, as the host team struggled to get going from the floor.
The Lions, who played nine players Thursday, have given their coach a reason to be optimistic about their growth. He said he has seen his young, inexperienced team become more comfortable shooting the ball. Brandau still wants to see his team stay active and engaged.
"We’re aren’t going tom change a lot because we’re not a man-to-man team," Brandau said. "Our zone can get very tough when they’re talking and moving… That fourth quarter they got some easy buckets because we didn’t rebound like we did the first three quarters.”
By the numbers: The Lions outscored the Royals 8-2 in the second quarter as Prellberg picked up her third foul in the second quarter.
Beyond the stats: Royals senior Cassie Seaney is expected to be evaluated for an injury and Brewington hopes she'll be able to return within the next few weeks.
They said it: "We have missed her in that mental piece," Brewington said of Seaney. "We have some kids that are filling in and playing great minutes and going great things but that leadership Is something we’re definitely missing right now.”
Up next: Hinckley-Big Rock plays at Elgin Academy on Saturday, and LaMoille-Ohio hosts West Carrol on Saturday.