NEW HAVEN — After suffering just its second loss of the season on Monday, the East Haven girls’ basketball team needed a quick start Thursday night. The Yellowjackets needed a big lift on the defensive end of the floor.
East Haven got exactly what it needed. The sixth-ranked Yellowjackets held host Career to one basket in the first quarter and five in the opening half to cruise 59-25 in a Southern Connecticut Conference tilt.
“What really helped us out today was our defense,” senior Kylie Schlottman said. “We knew defense would win us this game and I think we did that pretty well tonight.”
It’s the only regular-season matchup between the two teams, but it’s quite possible the two teams could meet twice more during the postseason — the SCC and Class M state tournaments.
Schlottman, who committed to play at the University of New Haven last month, scored the first six points for East Haven (15-2) to finish with a game-high 18 points. Career (10-6) scored half that many in the entire period, shooting just 1 for 13 from the floor. East Haven took a 15-3 lead.
“It was really important for us to get off to a good start. We were down from that loss (to Hamden) and we needed to pick that up,” Schlottman said.
Said East Haven coach Anthony Russell: “Our game plan was to bear down on Ky’Jae (Hargrove) because she can get off and get to the basket. They kind of go as she goes and I thought if we could neutralize her and close out on some of their shooters, I thought we would be in good shape.”
Hargrove had to work for her 13 points before injuring an ankle with 2:20 left in the third quarter. The senior guard was down for a few minutes before being carried off the floor. She was walking with a noticeable limp afterwards.
The Panthers host Greenwich on Saturday.
“With an ankle it’s always tough to tell, but she is tough,” Career coach Steve Bethke said when asked if Hargrove could play Saturday.
It got only a little better for the Panthers (4 of 12) in the second quarter, but they still were down 15 (27-12) at halftime.
Career actually got the deficit down to 12 before East Haven’s Alexis Pendziwater went on her own personal 9-0 run. With Career doubling Schlottman in the post and concerned with guard Makenzie Helms, a junior who recently committed to play at Nebraska, on her penetration into the lane, Pendziwater was wide open for the three 3-point shots she buried to put the game away at 37-16.
“I’m surprised (at the margin of victory) because Career is a seasoned team, a great program and Coach Bethke does a wonderful job with them,” Russell said. “So any time you get a convincing win like this, it’s nice.”
Helms added 13 points for the Yellowjackets.
“It was an off-shooting night. They are good, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t put up 50 to 55 points a night,” Bethke said. “I told them, ‘We have to put it behind us and step up against Greenwich.’”