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.

andquot;The team started slowly, but came together in the fourth quarter and took over the game,andquot; he said.

The defense, which allowed 23 first-half points, also tightened as the game went on and allowed only 11 points after halftime.

andquot;The full court press really bothered (the Panthers) in the second half,andquot; 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.

andquot;The team came together quicker than they did against Gold Beach,andquot; he said. andquot;When they took the lead in the first quarter they never gave it up.andquot;

A big difference maker in the game was the bench play of Josey Blazebrook, who had a andquot;excellent nightandquot;, according to Flowers.

andquot;She was definitely showing she deserved her playing time,andquot; 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.

andquot;We had a hard time stopping their post player,andquot; 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.

andquot;She played her best game of the year,andquot; Kleespies said.

Thursday versus Sunset, the Bruins found themselves in a difficult position early.

andquot;We got ourselves in a early hole with a 0-8 score,andquot; Kleespies said. andquot; We came charging back and tied it 10-10 at the end on the first quarter and never looked back.andquot;

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.