MADISON — In this season of starts and stops and long, long pauses, many teams are finding it hard to define the roles of players. The Spruce Mountain High School girls basketball team played just its second game of the season Monday night. Freshman Jazmine Pingree may have defined her role for the Phoenix, and she did it in a big way.

Coming off the bench, Pingree scored 11 points, including 10 in the third quarter. Eight of those 10 came in a row, and Pingree pulled the Phoenix from four points down to four points ahead. Spruce Mountain never trailed again after Pingree’s offensive outburst and took a 44-35 win at Madison.

“Feeling it, I guess,” Pingree said.

Spruce Mountain coach Zach Keene saw enough to state Pingree’s role on the team without any hesitation.

“Score off the bench. She’s a spark off the bench. The slow start we got off to, for one reason or another, and she came in and (Pingree) really turned things around for us and gave us some momentum. She made some shots, which allowed us to get into our three-quarter court traps and it turned the game. There’s no question about it, she turned the game,” Keene said.

Madison led by as much as nine points in the second quarter, and the Bulldogs led 21-17 at the half. Madison’s lead was still four points, 27-23, with just over three minutes to play. Pingree sank a layup to cut the Bulldogs lead to two points, and after a Madison turnover, she hit a layup to tie the game.

With 2:34 to play in the third quarter, Pingree sank a pair of free throws to give the Phoenix the lead for good. Thirty seconds later, Pingree made another layup and Spruce Mountain had a 31-27 lead. In just over a minute, the Phoenix went from four down to four up, and Pingree’s offense was the reason. That enabled Spruce Mountain to get into its pressure defense, and that gave the Bulldogs fits, especially in the second half.

“I thought we played throughout the game with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm. I think that their pressure is a little more than we’ve seen so far. It’s hard to react to that when you haven’t seen it,” Madison coach Al Veneziano said. “When you’re cancelling at the drop of the hat, we’re kind of at the mercy of who can play and who can’t. It’s difficult for the kids. As long as we’re getting a chance to play and get some experience, I think it’s going to benefit us.”

Pingree’s offensive outburst came in part because she was able to use a simple spin move to great effect. Each of the shots Pingree made in her 8-0 run came when that spin move bought her enough separation from a Madison defender to get an open look at the basket.

“I don’t know. I scored, so I was excited and I just kept playing hard,” Pingree said.

Added Keene: “I’ve been watching her make that spin move on the baseline since she was a fifth grader. There’s no question she can score the ball. She’s talented. To come here and beat them, it’s a big win for us.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Spruce Mountain is just getting its season started. Keene still has questions to answer about a lineup he called 90 percent freshmen and sophomores. But if Pingree’s outburst was a preview and not a one-game flash, one question is answered.

“It’s definitely tough without getting the rhythm of the games, but we know our players skill sets. It’s just a matter of finding the right times, of when to pull the trigger, and she went in and made plays. It was big for us,” Keene said.

 

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