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Patterson Mill girls basketball’s in-game adjustments prove to be the difference in 56-42 win over Edgewood

It wasn’t so much a change as it was making his team more keenly aware.

Rich Wilhelm spent the past few days of practice preparing his Patterson Mill girls basketball team to play a 3-2 zone; drilling each of the nuances and defensive principles. It was a change, he said, made solely for this game to shut down a pair of dangerous Edgewood scorers.

The Rams got the gist relatively quickly. When the Huskies, who would eventually win 56-42, played three high defenders with a pair at each block, it left the corners vacant for shooters. That puzzle solution fed a 9-0 second-quarter run on a trio of corner 3-pointers: one from Sam Donovan and two more from Jael Erickson.

That flipped a 16-11 Edgewood deficit to a 20-16 Rams lead.

So Wilhelm talked his team through the adjustment. Not one possession, not some possessions, but every defensive possession, the animated second-year coach shouted from the sideline, “Shadow!”

“What I told them was the bottom post girl has got to [jump] out especially if one of our shadow girls are there,” Wilhelm said. “We identified [Erickson] and [Donovan] as our shadow girls that were hitting all the 3s.”

Once the Rams sniffed out the added corner pressure, they started dumping the ball inside past high hands. To that, Wilhelm adjusted again, sliding forward another pawn. Patterson Mill’s block defender in the zone would front the post while its weak side guard slid down to defend the throw.

The rotation gave some fluidity to the 3-2 defense and forced Edgewood into uncomfortable shot selection. It also aided in a 12-3 table-turning run to open the second half.

Patterson Mill extended its win streak to seven (dating back to Dec. 19) not solely behind its leading scorer Kiley Wilhelm, but on the shoulders of a collective offensive effort and a game of chess at the other end.

Four Huskies scored nine or more points. Wilhelm had 17 including seven free throws after a slow first half. Rylie Madson commanded the interior with 14 points. Sophia Trihn scored 10 with a pair of triples, and Zoe Valan chipped in nine. Not to mention, Patterson Mill got its fair share of second-chance points.

“The plays are starting to click and the basketball IQ is starting to come up,” Wilhelm said. “They’re starting to understand so when I say a play, it doesn’t take them two or three seconds to understand, ‘This is what I gotta do.’ It’s [snaps fingers] right there. Everyone’s on the same page.”

Monday night’s defensive adjustments were a clear-cut example of that. Coach Wilhelm admitted he nearly deviated to man defense following that 9-0 collapse. But he kept his faith in his team’s ability to execute the zone adjustment and junked up the game with a sporadic press.

Meanwhile, Erickson paced the Rams with 14 points on four 3s. Donovan was right behind her with 11, thrice knocking down the deep ball.

“We got to learn how to deal with adversity when it comes to that stuff,” Edgewood coach Wes Laguerre said. “Teams are gonna start to see how we play. … We just got to adjust when the pressure comes. Who’s gonna step up? We gotta figure that out before playoffs start.”

Laguerre told his team in the hallway postgame that one loss doesn’t define the group. But he did concede this matchup between two teams hovering near the top of the conference was something of a litmus test.

“We have a lot of respect for them,” Laguerre said. “But I still think that we belong at the top as well –– with them, with Fallston and with all those other teams. We deserve to be there, we just have to be a little more consistent.”