Lady Panthers improve to 15-1 after Monday's victory over their crosstown rival. Matt Hollinshead/The Daily Times
FARMINGTON — The Piedra Vista girls basketball team was initially a little flustered by the various defenses it saw in 6A competition last year.
Those challenges ranged from Cibola’s speedy, frenzied movement on the wing to the post players Rio Rancho and Volcano Vista had.
The Lady Panthers have realized they needed to place greater value on balanced scoring in their second year playing in Class 6A.
“We just had a hard time playing against their defenses because they were bigger and stronger,” senior shooting guard Dani Russo said. “We’re (now) pretty sure that we’re good enough to be able to beat them, as well as we beat these (5A) teams.”
Now that PV has had the experience of playing such fierce, diverse foes, the Panthers (15-1, ranked seventh in all state classifications by maxpreps.com) are getting more out of their offense.
After scoring just 44.5 points a game while shooting only 34 percent from the floor last year, PV is scoring 57.5 points a game on 39 percent shooting this season.
After three players scored at least eight points a game last year, PV has five scoring at least six points per game this year.
“It makes it harder for us to be stopped. Especially getting assists from other people, finishing it off and getting their stats up, as well as mine, it’s just great,” senior post player Kristi Lee Bennie said.
PV also is generating more scoring chances off turnovers in the passing lanes, going from 8.7 steals a game last year to 18.1 steals a game this year.
“We’re very aggressive, and it’s just easy layups when we get those steals. In the third and the fourth quarter, we end up wiping teams out because they’re tired,” Russo said.
PV has players in the backcourt and at the post who can score off penetration. Players also won’t hesitate to kick the ball back out to teammates on the perimeter, where guards can knock down both open and contested 3-point attempts.
“When (the ball) goes inside out, you’re a better rhythm shooter, and your shooting percentage is higher. The girls all understand that,” coach Joe Reed said. “There’s not a design in our offense for one particular person to get the ball. They share the ball really well, and we’ve gotten good results.”
With District 1-6A play just around the corner, starting with a home game against Cibola on Jan. 19, Bennie said PV is more competitive to where it can give those foes trouble.
“We’re ready for it,” Bennie said.
Lady Panthers generate scoring chances off turnovers in Saturday's tournament finals at Aztec High. Matt Hollinshead/The Daily Times
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.