BRODHEAD, Wis. - The Brodhead girls basketball team grew up in a hurry Thursday night.
The Cardinals, facing an experienced Clinton squad expected to compete for a Rock Valley Conference title, certainly didn't act their age in a convincing 63-53 victory.
Looking anything like the freshman she is, Brodhead center Abbie Dix was the game's dominant presence with a 20-point performance that also included rebound figures into the high teens.
Senior point guard Carissa Purdue was also terrific, finishing with 17 points, while Kiarra Moe ended with 12.
The offensive output wasn't what impressed Cardinals coach Brian Kammerer, however.
"You can look at the scoring column all you want, but we won the game tonight with defense," Kammerer said. "It was a true team effort. Overall, on that side of the ball, we just did great."
Kammerer, who starts three sophomores along with Dix and Purdue, said the win should be a huge confidence-booster for his team.
"I won't try to deny it, this was a huge win for us tonight," Kammerer said. "Clinton has a great program, and we know they are going to compete for a conference title. I didn't know what our chances were coming into the game. I thought the effort we gave was just phenomenal."
The Cardinals locked down the Cougars in the first half and entered intermission with a 24-13 advantage.
Clinton came out with a renewed energy thanks to a colorful halftime heart-to-heart discussion led by coach Kim Ciochon. A basket by Ellie Teubert chopped the Cardinal lead to 28-25 with 16 minutes to play.
"The conversation we had was pretty simple: We weren't playing our basketball," Ciochon said. "We set goals as a team, and we aren't going to achieve them playing the way we did. But we came out on fire, made some shots and played with a lot more energy. That's something we're going to have to continue to do, regardless of the situation in the game."
After the Clinton run, Dix and Purdue countered with big shots of their own and eventually got the Cardinals' advantage up to 18 at 52-34.
Back roared the Cougars as senior Liz Kalk led the charge. Kalk scored 13 of her team-best 16 points in the second half, and a step-back trey with just under a minute to play cut the Cardinal lead to 59-51. But Moe helped seal the deal with solid free throw shooting down the stretch, and the Cardinals found themselves tied in the standings with the Cougars at 2-1 in the young season.
"The key tonight was our energy," Purdue said. "Our start was huge for us. When this team comes out with good, positive energy, things are going to happen on the floor for us. I think we saw that tonight.'
The Cougars must rebound from Thursday's disappointing loss.
"I know what I'm going to do," Kalk said. "I'm going to let myself be upset tonight. And when I wake up tomorrow morning, it's going to be forgotten. If anyone comes into practice tomorrow still upset about tonight, we're going to have a conversation about it. We've had practices like that before, last year after a bad loss. We'd mope during practice, and that's just not good for us."
The Cougars will host Edgerton Tuesday while Brodhead travels to Big Foot.