By EARL WATT
• Leader & Times
After being named KJCCC Player of the Week and then signing with Kansas State, Ashlynn Knoll did not have a letdown game against South Plains.
Knoll scored 16 points to join three other Lady Saints in double digits in a 74-44 rout of the Lady Texans who had defeated Seward last year in the Billy’s/Days Inn Classic.
As strong as Knoll’s performance was in the first half, it may have been second-best behind the suffocating Lady Saint defense.
Seward only allowed four points — one basket and two free throws — in the first 14 minutes of the game.
At that point, the Lady Saints had already built a 25-4 lead.
The Saints defense used a pressure defense that forced South Plains to melt half of the shot clock before crossing mid-court.
The defense was aided by the sticky hands of Ricquia Jones, Charmaine Burns and Knoll. The three combined for 10 of the team’s 13 steals. Seward forced the Lady Texans into 25 turnovers in the game, and converted many of them into points.
The Lady Saint defense forced South Plains into long scoring droughts. The Lady Texans did not score in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the game against the Lady Saint defense, and that was pair of free throws from Sydney Hearn. South Plains scored its first basket of the game after six-and-a-half minutes of play.
And the Lady Texans did not score again for the next seven minutes.
By the end of the first half, South Plains had four baskets and eight free throws for 16 points.
While the Lady Texans were battling to get off a shot, Knoll and the Lady Saints were not shooting a high percentage, either, but the Lady Saint defense made the offense appear better.
Seward only shot 44 percent in the first half, but that was twice as good as the 20 percent effort from South Plains.
Knoll scored the eight of Seward’s first 10 points and started a 17-0 run that shot the Lady Saints to a 25-4 lead.
The Lady Saints took advantage of their opportunities at the free throw line, hitting 10 of 12 in the first half.
Seward had a 25-point lead with 1:12 remaining in the half, but the Lady Texans ended the half on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 19, 35-16 at the half.
Seward responded by opening the second half with a12-0 run that included three point baskets from Anete Kirsteine and Mattie Yanke.
The long ball became a more common shot in the second half. After hitting just one of nine attempts on the first half, Seward hit six three-pointers in the second half.
The Lady Texans struggled to get a shot in the beginning of the second half and did not score for the first four minutes.
South Plains responded to the first 30-point deficit of the game with a 7-0 run, but the Lady Saints offense started to pour it on, scoring 19 points in a six-minute stretch that gave Seward a 39-point lead, 71-32, with three minutes to play.
Seward cruised to the 74-44 win and moved to 6-0.
Knoll led all scorers with 16 points, Mariah Lee added 14, Jones scored 12, and Kirsteine had 10.
Yanke connected on three-three pointers for a nine-point night.
Seward faced Frank Phillips Saturday evening.