HIGHLAND PARK — Much of the Highland Park girls basketball team’s offensive success actually begins when it gets stops on the defensive end.
The Giants are often smaller than their opponents — nobody on the team is 6-foot tall — but many of the girls are quite athletic. So whenever possible, they look to get out into the open floor.
“We realize that we have some speed on our team,” said senior guard Lucy Hoffman. “If we can get transition baskets, then we’ll go for it.”
Pushing the ball in transition isn’t about just playing as fast as possible for Highland Park. It’s about trying to beat an opponent up the court after a defensive stop, particularly after turnovers.
“We like to think everything starts defensively,” Hoffman said.
The Giants showed how effective their transition offense can be in a 76-50 win over rival Deerfield Dec. 10. After giving up 20 points in the first quarter, Highland Park allowed just 30 in the final three periods and finished with a season-high 76 points. Highland Park forced 16 turnovers in the game.
“We played a lot better defensively in the second half,” said Giants coach Jolie Bechtel. “We got a lot of transition baskets which we talk a lot about … because we’re quicker than we have been the last couple of years.
“[At halftime] we talked about playing better defensively … no more basket-for-basket,” added Bechtel. “We did a better job of getting stops after we scored in the second half.”
Highland Park has been better scoring near the basket than on the perimeter this season, something that can be difficult in the half-court offense because of the team’s lack of size.
“When we are in the paint, our shooting percentage is significantly higher than we are on the perimeter,” said senior guard Sarah Glazer, who tied a career high with 19 points against Deerfield.“We want to get into transition because we’re a quick team.”
Since Highland Park is aware of its strengths (and weaknesses) as a unit, much of its success in CSL play will hinge on playing the right way on a game-to-game basis.
“It’s key that we be consistent,” Bechtel said. “That we don’t have a let down. That we continue to play to our ability.”
“You can have off nights shooting the ball. You can’t control that,” Glazer said. “Our defense is what we focus on.”