NEW CARLISLE — Something had to give for New Prairie girls basketball.
The Cougars entered Thursday's game against Jimtown at 1-8 on the year, with as good a chance as any to secure a victory against the 0-10 Jimmies.
New Prairie's first possession of the game went about as perfectly as possible, as senior point guard Libby Lapczynski found junior forward Jordan Winters wide open on the right wing for an easy two points.
It looked as if the Cougars were going to have their way with Jimtown, but their 40-28 victory over the Jimmies proved to be a hard-fought, closely-contested, defensive battle for the remaining 31 minutes.
"Going into any conference matchup, obviously we want to get the win," New Prairie coach Todd Dermody said. "The way we're playing, we take no opponent lightly. To know we also didn't have our best game offensively and get the win was great, too."
Lapczynski, the lone senior on New Prairie, showed her maturity and leadership on both sides of the ball Thursday night. Her 1-for-23 shooting outing might not suggest a stellar offensive performance, but the Cougars don't necessarily rely on her to score all that often. She ran the offense well, making smart passes to open players, creating fluid ball movement all night long.
On the defensive side of things, it was impossible to miss Lapczynski's contributions. She racked up a staggering 10 steals on the night, wreaking havoc on a Jimtown team that had trouble holding onto the ball against a stingy New Prairie defense.
"When I can't put the ball in the basket like tonight, I always try to make an impact somewhere else," Lapczynski said. "Tonight I really focused on my defense to get us going. But offensively, I just had to make sure I was driving hard to the basket, moving the ball around and getting the ball to my teammates. Scoring's not my first priority usually, anyways."
Dermody's squad's defense put on a near-perfect show in the first half. With his offense struggling from the field early on, his defense stepped up to give the Cougars a three-point lead going into half. They allowed just one made field goal in the first 16 minutes. If it weren't for a porous 12 fouls given up in the first half — miscues that led to six made free throws— the rout would have been on regardless of New Prairie's offensive struggles.
One Cougar had herself a very productive night shooting the basketball, though: Junior forward Jordan Winters. She finished with 17 points and seven rebounds — six of them offensive. A second half that proved fruitful for New Prairie started with Winters' ability to put the ball in the hoop, dropping 11 of her 17 points in the third and fourth quarters.
Sophomore forward Maddie McSurley also made her presence felt on the boards, hauling in six offensive and eight defensive rebounds for 14 rebounds. She was severely out-matched down low with a pair of long, strong Jimtown post players, but her usual tenacity on the glass made all that not matter.
"I'm super proud of the way Maddie and Jordan played tonight," Dermody said. "I mean, to have Maddie tweak her ankle in practice yesterday and in the game today, and to still play hard down low and grab 14 rebounds? That's awesome. And with Jordan, she's a great scorer. She showed that tonight. When you have your three captains (Lapczynski, McSurley, Winters) have really great games like all three of them did tonight, it makes it hard for us to lose."
New Prairie 40, Jimtown 28
The Cougars' Jordan Winters tallied 17 points and seven rebounds.