In most cases, losing a 9-point lead late in a game to drop a season-opener would be cause for nothing but frustration.
But head coach Kelly Robson was in bright spirits after Friday’s 46-42 loss to Southeast of Saline.
“Other than losing, I couldn’t be happier. I really couldn’t,” he said. “Wow, we have come a long ways. I’m really, really pleased most of all with our effort.”
Against a team that beat them by 20-plus points a season ago, the Warriors showed teeth in the form of an attacking defense that wreaked havoc on the Spartans offense.
Going into half down 25-23, the Warriors surged in the third quarter to lead 33-31, and that lead extended to 40-31 midway through the fourth quarter. The Warriors’ zone defense kept the Spartans off-balance, and Kirsten Hansen and Kourtney Hansen forced many turnovers. Robson said the Warriors could have done a better job of converting those turnovers on the other end.
“I wish we were better from the free-throw line because we missed a couple of those, and we missed some layups I thought we should have made,” he said. “But those are the breaks.”
The Warriors struggled in breaking a full-court press applied by the Spartans as their situation grew dire.
Robson said he was concerned with the Warriors’ offense against that press, and that his team “got flustered.” The turnover advantage shifted in the Spartans’ favor, and the lead followed shortly.
The Warriors battled back, taking a late lead on an Elizabeth Meyer bank shot with under a minute left.
The Spartans got off a quick jump shot on the other end to recover the lead at 43-42 and the Warriors couldn’t respond.
Robson said he thought his team showed it could battle with high-level competition, and hopes to see that play out at this week’s Marion Classic.
“There were a handful of tears in the locker room because they’re disappointed to lose,” Robson said. “But oh my goodness, they’re really feelin’ good — and I’m feelin’ excited — for the season after that. We’re gonna build on this one. That’s a good feeling to start with.”