By Chad Robert Snyder
Pilot staff writer
Back-to-back games and slow starts last week weren't enough to derail the Azalea Middle School basketball girls, who traveled to Gold beach Wednesday and Sunset on Thursday.
The eighth-grade Bruins went 2-0, crushing the Panthers 50-32 Wednesday afternoon and ultimately taking command of a close game Thursday versus Sunset and winning 33-25.
The only loss of the trip came Wednesday night, with the seventh graders succumbing to a Gold Beach Panther team that has lost only one game on the season, 44-24. Head Coach Kristy Kleespies' team got back in step the following evening, overcoming a early eight point deficit to win 45-34.
Of Wednesday night's game versus Gold Beach, eighth-grade Assistant Coach Bruce Flowers said it took time for the Bruins to get up to speed.
"The team started slowly, but came together in the fourth quarter and took over the game," he said.
The defense, which allowed 23 first-half points, also tightened as the game went on and allowed only 11 points after halftime.
"The full court press really bothered (the Panthers) in the second half," said seventh-grade Head Coach Kristy Kleespies.
Kaleen Bishop led all scorers with 18 points.
Thursday night's eighth-grade game versus Sunset Blue was decidedly different, according to Flowers.
"The team came together quicker than they did against Gold Beach," he said. "When they took the lead in the first quarter they never gave it up."
A big difference maker in the game was the bench play of Josey Blazebrook, who had a "excellent night", according to Flowers.
"She was definitely showing she deserved her playing time," he said.
Sammie Young had another solid outing, scoring 10 points, and Blazebrook put up seven more.
The seventh graders had a difficult time with one particular Panther in their Wednesday night loss.
"We had a hard time stopping their post player," Kleespies said.
Points in the paint by the Panthers became a theme and ultimately dashed the Bruins' hope for a comeback.
Even in a disheartening loss, Kleespies saw a silver lining.
In her eyes, Hannah Baron had a break-out game for the Bruins; she matched the best scoring performance of the game with six points and hustled for three steals.
"She played her best game of the year," Kleespies said.
Thursday versus Sunset, the Bruins found themselves in a difficult position early.
"We got ourselves in a early hole with a 0-8 score," Kleespies said. " We came charging back and tied it 10-10 at the end on the first quarter and never looked back."
Bethanee Bottoms played a significant role in the comeback with her 16 points. Halle Ostman had a monster night for Azalea in most statistical categories. In addition to her 10 points, Ostman also had four blocks, five steals and six rebounds.
The Bruin are currently enjoying a two-week break from game action. Both teams will be back at it at 4 p.m., Jan. 5, at home versus Gold Beach.