NORTH ADAMS -- Once the McCann Tech girls’ basketball team settled into its zone defense, Putnam had no answer for it on Friday night, and the Hornets ran to a 41-26 victory.
With Putnam on an 11-4 run, Emijah Barton pulled down a defensive rebound and launched a long pass to Breeana Rodriguez late in the first quarter. Rodriguez finished the fast break with an easy layup.
Mary Nguyen made a steal on Putnam’s following possession and used her speed to turn it into another easy layup. The back-to-back quick strikes sparked a 24-4 run for the Hornets that lasted into the third quarter. The basket was Nguyen’s first of the night and came with her team trailing 11-6.
"Once we’re spread out in that zone, I can see everything," Nguyen said. "That really helps me make the move on the ball."
She finished the night with a game-high 18 points and recorded 10 steals for a double-double.
Putnam scored 11 points in the first quarter, but then had a hard time finding the basket. Its next highest total came in the third quarter and was only eight. Aleah Pannell recorded six first-quarter points and added just two more over the next 24 minutes.
"We stopped the man-to-man and went to that 1-2-2 zone," McCann coach Mike Dowling said. "Once [we] settled into it, [Putnam] couldn’t solve it. It’s a match-up zone and it’s pretty simple to play. They played it really well and did really well defending."
Justice Wallace was the only player to reach double figures for Putnam.
Nguyen’s speed combined with good awareness helps her make the quick reads necessary to record steals. It’s a skill the Hornets will rely heavily on for the rest of the season.
"She just has such awareness," Dowling said. "She knows that pass is going over there before it goes there. And she is fast when she makes that read."
While Nguyen turned quite a few of her steals into points, the team also was able to turn defensive rebounds into fast-break points. Eileen Zajac led the Hornets in rebounds, pulling down 13. She had six assists on the night, several coming on long passes after a rebound. Barton also had several rebounds for McCann that turned into fast breaks.
"It comes down to just boxing out," Zajac said. "Boxing out and catching the ball."
With much of its offense coming off fast breaks, McCann relies heavily on its speed. Both Nguyen and Rodriguez feature great speed for the Hornets.
"[Putnam] is a slower team, and we like to push the ball," Nguyen said. "It lets me take advantage of my speed."
For McCann, it’s a victory that shows how much it has improved since the start of the season.
It’s the third win of the season for the Hornets, and the second in the league, making the Hornets 2-1 in the Bi-County League.
"We have more confidence now," Zajac said. "We’ve won two [league] games now, so we can move on and play the rest of the year with some confidence."