Gauging by the first half of the Brookfield girls' home game against Harrisburg on Monday night, one might think a lot of teams would be contented roll over and throw it in, especially with an early-season road game looming the very next evening.
The Bulldogs proved in the third quarter that they refuse to be relegated to that category of team.
Although Brookfield eventually fell 51-39, for a moment the Bulldogs showed the spark of a potentially-great team that may not have to wait for their sophomores to develop quite as much as conventional wisdom would suggest.
After a lethargic first half in which it scored just six points in each of the first two quarters, Brookfield trailed 28-12 returning to the locker room.
"We wanted to start the game off fast," Harrisburg coach Ryan Richardson said. "We talked a lot about energy coming out of the gate, and going to our strength, which is working the ball inside."
At any given time, all five positions on the court were physically bigger for Harrisburg than for Brookfield, but the home side turned it around in the third. Rylee Sensenich hit a three-pointer with 6:20 left to play in the quarter, and Kaylie Stufflebean converted an and-one opportunity moments later to bring Brookfield back within 14 at 32-18.
Harrisburg scored the next five points in the game to extend its lead to 37-18. Then, the Bulldogs went rabid.
Stufflebean hit a shot from beyond the arc. On the next possession, Kaley Smith came down and rattled one in transition. Sensenich hit another, then Stufflebean hit another on the next possession. Just like that, Brookfield's Bulldogs drew within nine points of Harrisburg's at 39-30 with time dwindling in the third.
Not to be outdone, Cassi Conard banked in a half-courter as the buzzer sounded in the penultimate period, and Brookfield was back within six points -- the same amount that it scored in each of the other three quarters.
"At halftime, we said that we can't come out here and go through the motions because it will get ugly really quick," first-year Brookfield coach Tony Fairchild said. "We wanted to come out here and grind it out and battle. They did. We came out and defended a lot better, and of course, when you hit shots, it looks like you play a lot better. Spreading them out opens up stuff to the basket, too. We've got to be able to take it to the hole, and we did a little better job of that in the third quarter."
Stufflebean led her team with 11 points, and Conard also cracked the double-digit mark with 10. Sensenich's two three-pointers were her only scores of the game, and Sydney Wilbeck and Regan Wood both had four points.
Fairchild said that fatigue contributed to the fourth-quarter letdown, but was unconcerned about his ladies not being in prime shape in November.
"We're not where we need to be fitness-wise because we're trying to get other stuff in, so we went to a zone and got our legs back under us a little bit," the former Meadville coach said. "I think we can get there. Harrisburg's a quality team, but we're capable."