First-year Foothill girls basketball coach Eric Kruger knew it would take time to determine what kind of group he had inherited.
With no starters back from last season’s state semifinal team, Kruger was left with a load of underclassmen.
“Early on we’ve had an identity crisis,” Kruger said. “We don’t have a lot of returners, and the ones that we do have were hurt last year or are hurt now. We’ve just been waiting for the young kids to step up and take ownership.”
The wait might be over.
The Falcons used a relentless defense and dynamic freshman Taylor Turney to collect a 51-42 victory at Green Valley on Wednesday.
Taylor Turney, a 5-foot-7-inch guard, led all scorers with 20 points, including 5-for-7 shooting from 3-point range.
“How does it feel to have Taylor Turney on my team? It feels nice,” Kruger said. “Right now, she brings a lot of talent.
“We’ve been working on her defense and her ability to lead a team that she’s not used to playing with.”
Leading 33-30 early in the fourth quarter, the Falcons (6-2) implemented a pressing defense to slow the Gators’ top scorer, junior guard Maggie Manwarren.
“We knew that only one girl could bring up the ball — Maggie,” Turney said. “And we needed to
pressure her. We just worked hard and came out on top.”
A deep 3-pointer from Turney and two consecutive baskets in the paint from junior Tabitha Winward fueled a 9-0 run that lasted nearly three minutes and gave Foothill a 12-point lead.
Green Valley (4-2), which committed 11 second-half turnovers, cut its deficit to six with 1:39 remaining. However, the rally fell short as the Gators sent the Falcons to the free-throw line on three consecutive possessions.
Freshman Katey Roquemore, who played all 32 minutes, contributed 12 points for the Falcons, and Winward had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Manwarren paced the Gators with 14 points and three steals.
“This does a lot for us,” Turney said. “We know we can do it now without our older kids. We’re just trying to get better every day.”