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Reardan’s Chantel Heath tries to make a pass before Bear Creek’s Nikki Peterson forces her out of bounds. (Colin Mulvany)

Usually high-scoring Reardan uses defense to win opener

Reardan began defense of its State 2B girls basketball championship with defense.

Despite an offense that failed to reach 50 points for just the second time this season, the top-ranked Indians smothered Bear Creek 49-24 Thursday morning in the tournament opener at the Arena.

“We almost always have confidence in our defense,” junior point guard Chantel Heath said. “We know if we play hard on defense it can win us games and get us into our offensive motion.”

That was evident early, after the Grizzlies (18-6) took a 4-3 lead. Starting with a Heath layup, Reardan (25-0) reeled off 12 straight points. The offense wasn’t always pretty as the Indians made just 6 of 18 shots, but Bear Creek’s 10 possessions resulted in eight turnovers, a pair of missed free throws and just one attempted shot.

Heath had seven points in a 12-2 run, starting with a 3-pointer, that pushed Reardan’s lead to 27-8 midway through the second quarter. But after that lovely 5-for-5 flurry the Indians, who play Adna (23-3) in the 3:45 semifinal today, didn’t score again. Adna beat Riverside Christian in a thriller, 47-42.

Reardan’s double-figure scorers, Kelsey Moos and Katy Burge, had six points between them in the first two quarters, but with Heath and Lauren Schulz, who matched their nine-points averages by halftime, the Indians led 27-12.

“I knew they were struggling so I told myself I needed to help pick up the team and do more,” said Heath, who finished with a game-high 13 points. “We were just getting used to the court.”

Bear Creek had 15 of its 26 turnovers in the first half and shot just 28.6 percent for the game.

“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Reardan coach Ed Shields said. “We didn’t prepare anything different defensively. I just told the girls, ‘The offense isn’t always there every night; defense wins championships.’ ”

The Grizzlies were also hampered because leading scorer Catherine Fernandez (7.4 points) was hobbled with an injury and limited to less than three scoreless minutes. The 6-foot-2 sophomore got her foot caught under a ball rack at practice Tuesday and had seven stitches in her left Achilles.

Reardan’s offensive struggles continued in the third quarter when the Grizzlies actually out-scored the Indians 7-6, but in the fourth quarter Moos and Burge combined for 10 points just to ensure there would be no upset.