HEBRON – It isn't hard for coach Jen Nichols-Hogle or the players on the Alden-Hebron girls basketball team to remember back to the beginning of the season when nothing seemed to click.
It took some time for the players to mesh and figure out what needed to be done in order to win. It didn't take long before the Giants began to figure it out with help from specific practices tailored to moving the ball and not taking the first easy shot. Other work focused on team defense. It was coming together.
"We had a rough start of the season," Nichols-Hogle said, "and now we are seeing more chemistry and we're making that extra pass and the girls are doing a good job of being there for each other."
The Giants entered their Christmas tournament with confidence and finished with something to build from. The Giants reached the championship game by winning three straight games before losing to Durand, 53-24, Monday night.
The loss came on the heels of a 50-43 win over Northeastern Athletic Conference rival Harvest Christian earlier in the day.
"I'm very proud of my girls getting to the championship game," Nichols-Hogle said. "Losing always stinks, but being able to see the bigger picture, and where we have come from, is good for our girls and something we can build on."
Durand featured a big lineup that proved to be difficult to defend for the undersized Giants as the game got away from them in the second half. The Giants used a number of different defensive looks to try to slow forward Cassidy Derus, who had been tearing up the tournament.
The Giants (5-6) held Derus to 14 points in large part due to having many different players guard her. A-H kept pace in the first half and found itself down by eight at the break.
Hannah Behrens was held scoreless but helped keep the offense going as she grabbed six rebounds in the game after coming off a double-double performance against Harvest Christian (12 points, 16 rebounds). Brooklyn Hilton paced the Giants with 10 points and controlled the offense, calling various plays at the point.
Hilton got shooter Tally Lalor (five points) involved as well as Hannah Warren (4) and Jacqueline Walters (3), which kept Durand off-balance defensively in the first half. The Giants' ball movement created a lot of good looks at the basket and opened passing lanes.
"This tournament was a great turing point for us," said Hilton, who finished with eight rebounds. "We had a really rough beginning to our season, and us talking and communicationg throughout this tournament and at practices makes this something we can build from.
"It's an awesome feeling."
Added Behrens: "This tournament has been a complete 360 for us. In the beginning of the season we had a rough start, and we fought our way back and now we're starting to be able to dig ourselves out of holes and play tough against everyone."