It was apparent in the first half of Monday's season-opening girls basketball game at St. Francis that everyone was a little nervous and a little rusty.
After a turnover-filled opening 16 minutes, the score was 13-8 in favor of the host Spartans over Winnebago.
But then the tempo picked up in the second-half and St. Francis used an effective pressing defense to go on to a 40-28 win.
"This feels good," said Spartans coach Mike Phillips. "Last year we started 0-6, so 1-0 is obviously better. We did a good job pressuring the ball and causing a bunch of turnovers. That's what we're going to have to do, play defense, because we're going to a struggle a little bit to score."
The scoring was spread among 10 Spartans with Reagan Sproat leading the way with 8 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, all scored in the third period.
In that period St. Francis displayed an energetic pressing game and outscored the visitors 21-12 to go into the final quarter with a 34-20 lead.
Carley Pasquale played the point on the press and came up with four of her six steals in that decisive third quarter.
"We had a lot of nerves built up for the first game," Pasquale said. "Once we settled down to work we were OK. At halftime the coach told us to just calm down. Then we just went out and had fun. One person starts it and it becomes a team thing and we all get going especially on defense. I love defense."
Sproat hauled down 7 rebounds, four off the offensive glass for the Spartans, and Sloane Baumgartner grabbed 6.
Winnebago junior Jenna Misuraca was the game's high scorer with 11, and she added 3 steals. Morgan Burhhart led the rebounders with 5 and she came up with 3 steals.
"It's very early in the season," said Winnebago coach Judy Krause. "We didn't have a lot of composure and we created a lot of problems for ourselves. We didn't shoot well and we threw the ball away a ton of times."
Krause thought the St. Francis defense had a lot to do with those turnovers.
"Their speed and their footwork made us go east-west instead of north-south a lot. That took us out of our rhythm," she said.