WALES — Coaches often espouse the importance of defense leading to offense, but rarely the other way around.

Spruce Mountain couldn’t buy a basket in the first quarter of Thursday night’s Mountain Valley Conference matchup with Oak Hill, and the result was noticeable at the defensive end and the scoreboard.

Oak Hill jumped out to a 17-2 lead in the first quarter, then did well enough from the free throw line to minimize the damage done by Spruce’s press in the second half en route to a 55-40 victory.

Desirae Dumais led the Raiders (6-3) with 23 points, while Sadie Waterman added 14 points. Haley Turcotte paced the Phoenix (5-6) with 15 points.

Dumais outscored the Phoenix on her own, 10-2, in the first quarter to help propel the Raiders out to the big lead.

“Every game, she’s growing more and more,” Oak Hill coach Mike Labonte said. “She’s getting a little more confident and learning how to handle the other team’s best defender.”

“Getting a lot of points from Sadie Waterman was big, too,” he added.

Spruce Mountain made just one of nine shots and turned the ball over nine times in the period.

“We wanted to come out and press. That was the plan,” Spruce Mountain coach Zach Keene said. “But we wanted to do it out of makes, and we weren’t making shots.”

“We came out a little flat,” he added. “I’ve got to do a better job of making sure they’re ready to play. If they’re not ready, that’s on me.”

Spruce Mountain was able to get its shots to start falling in the second quarter but the Raiders got into the bonus early and were able to add a point to their lead by halftime, 30-14, thanks to the procession to the free throw line.

The Phoenix came out with more energy for the second half and started chipping away. Six points from Turcotte helped them pull within 11 at one point before a Waterman jumper and Dumais steal and layup gave Oak Hill a 40-25 lead at the end of three.

“In the second half, we were a completely different team,” Keene said. “We came out to play with more confidence and energy.”

And more defensive pressure. With the Phoenix able to apply their fullcourt press more frequently, the Raiders started getting careless with the ball (15 second-half turnovers). That opened the door for the Phoenix to cut the margin to single digits, 48-40, after Turcotte made a 3-pointer with 2:34 left.

“Because we’re young, we still have some issues when the other team is getting pressure,” Labonte said. “They increased the pressure in the second half and we struggled.”

The Raiders have improved their free throw shooting, however, and that proved big down the stretch. Waterman hit a pair from the charity stripe to put the cushion back into double digits to stay, and Kaitlyn Ridley followed with a three-point play to put it out of reach.

Abby Nadeau added seven points, 10 rebounds and four steals for the Raiders. Calley Baker chipped in with five points, 10 rebounds and four steal off the bench for the Phoenix.

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