In its undefeated start to the season, East had simply gotten used to outscoring its opponents to the tune of 65 points per game on offense. After a defensive struggle against Woods Cross on Friday night, the Leopards’ undefeated run continues as they upended the Wildcats 50-36 at home.
While Woods Cross came into the game holding its opponents to an average of 30 points per game, the Wildcats didn’t have an answer for East center Lani Taliauli as the 6-foot senior dominated the paint with a game-high 21 points and six rebounds.
“We knew it was going to be hard [to score],” Taliauli said. “Even after scouting these guys we struggled in the beginning, but our coaches had a really good game plan. Credit goes to my teammates who kept feeding me the ball. It was them, not me.”
After taking a narrow 23-18 lead into halftime, Taliauli got the East offense flowing for the first time as she scored seven points in the third quarter to give the Leopards their first double-digit lead of the game.
But Woods Cross refused to back down as guard Sarah Noel scored six of her 20 points in the third to keep the game within reach at 36-30 heading into the fourth quarter.
“That’s what we expected, we’ve only had close games with Woods Cross,” East coach Olosaa Solovi said. “Those girls put a lot of pressure on you and they just keep coming.”
With the Wildcats continuing to creep closer to start the final period, the Leopards’ defense brought the hammer down as Taliauli and fellow senior Liana Kaitu’u shut down the interior and forced four of East’s 12 total steals in the final three minutes to end any chance of a comeback.
“We knew that we were probably going to have a couple mismatches on the inside,” Solovi said. “We knew we were going to have to work it in there on offense and force it back out on defense. That just kept it going for us.”
Friday’s win also came without much offensive contribution from leading scorer Lealani Falatea. The freshman guard, who has been averaging 17.6 points per game thus far, wasn’t very upset that her team did just fine despite her lack of offense.
“Our team does really good when someone isn’t playing their best,” Falatea said. “I had a rough game buy my teammates picked up the slack. They help me out the most after a game like that. The older girls like Lani [Taliauli] always tell me to keep my head up and keep playing hard. I’ll bounce back for sure.”
East 50, Woods Cross 36
East improves to 4-0 on the season thanks to 21 points from center Lani Taliauli and 15 points from guard Rita Satini.
East forces 16 Woods Cross turnovers including 12 steals as the Leopards hold the Wildcats to their second lowest scoring total of the season.
Sarah Noel leads Woods Cross with 20 points and three rebounds.