It was obvious entering the season that this would be a new-look Marshall girls basketball squad. Used to being the bigger team, the Cardinals were given a stark reminder of their lack of post presence as the oversized Randolph Rockets came into Marshall High School and beat the Cardinals, 59-37, to kick off the 2021-22 season.
Randolph’s secret weapon was junior Jorey Bruwalda. The 6’ junior had exceptional ball-handling skills and proved to be a tremendous issue both from a passing and scoring perspective. She led all scorers in the game with 27 points on 12-24 shooting from the field. She also grabbed 11 rebounds and added three steals and a block, truly dominating.
“Randolph is a very good team,” Marshall head coach Doug Pickarts said. “Good teams will wear you down and get you frustrated. I went into halftime pleased, but we had some issues with defense and shot selection in the second half.”
While Bruwalda made her presence in the game well known, the Cardinals were absolutely in this game in the first half. The smaller Marshall squad used its speed to its advantage, running a full-court zone press and challenging every pass from Randolph guards.
This results in plenty of turnovers from an obviously frustrated Rocket side. Randolph’s head coach, Chad Kaufman, burned two timeouts early in the first half as he tried to dissect and counter the aggressive Marshall defense.
Those turnovers turned into points for Marshall. Senior guard Abby Ward established herself as the team’s primary scoring option, nailing four 3-pointers in the first half.
The first half was an absolute battle for the Cardinals. They eventually clawed their way back to a 20-19 lead thanks to the hot shooting from Ward and sophomore guard Wynn Held. But, Marshall’s aggressive defense was starting to backfire.
Randolph was in the bonus by the 8 minute mark in the first half. This drastically altered the Cardinals’ approach, as the slightest overreach in the press could result in free points for the Rockets via the free throw line.
This shift of gears allowed Randolph’s second leading scorer, sophomore guard Mya Moldenhauer, to get some blows in. She nailed a pair of free throws, a jumper, and a 3-pointer to give Randolph a 30-23 lead heading into halftime.
Things got out of hand for the Marshall offense in the second half. Pickarts gave many of his guards the “green light” to shoot open threes this season as the Cardinals don’t have as much of a post presence. Some of the guards took this entirely too literally, firing off-balanced, ill-advised shots which were essentially just turnovers that clanged off the backboard and rim.
“It’s a catch-22,” Pickarts said. “I want to give them the liberty to shoot those shots, but it has to be a good shot you think you can make. In practice, if they take a bad shot, I tell them and make them aware they would get pulled for that. Tonight, I didn’t want a revolving door and take away the opportunity to shoot. We had a lot of kids taking bad shots and not getting back on defense.”
As the offense sputtered, Randolph figured out how to get easy points. The Marshall guards weren’t getting back on defense immediately after possessions. So, the Rockets would grab defensive rebounds and hurl the ball quickly up-court to a streaking guard. The Marshall guards never seemed to catch on as Randolph got at least five free buckets using this method.
“We gave up way too many transition buckets,” Pickarts said. “It was all of us. We addressed it and kids still watched blue jerseys run by them. No court awareness. We didn’t play the defense we played in the first half.”
Even when Randolph slowed things down and operated out of the halfcourt, Buwalda was still cooking and laying in hook shots to keep growing the lead.
To be fair, it was the first game of the season, Marshall only had nine players available, and the Cardinals spent all game running a full-court press. Fatigue had to have played a factor in the second-half performance. Still Randolph made the Cardinals look far from the state title squads of 2018 and 2019, handing Marshall it’s first 20+ point loss since December of 2019.
Coach Pickarts’ full-court press looks like a success through a scrimmage and a game, though. The girls undoubtedly have a firm grip on their assignments and responsibilities, showing a combination of both outstanding coaching and very cerebral players. There is potential for another good season at Marshall this season.
“We just have to get better from it,” Pickarts said. “That’s the biggest thing. If we get better from it, then it’s a good loss. That’s why we play good teams. We find out how good we are and they expose things we need to get better at. I have a good group of girls and they’re smart girls. This sucks, but we’ll keep getting better.”
Ward led Marshall in scoring with 18 total points, including five 3-pointers. Junior guard Allie Rateike was right behind her with nine points.
Marshall has a chance to right the ship Tuesday, Nov. 23 as the Cardinals will travel to Lakeside Lutheran. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m.