With a nickname like “Fancy,” you might expect Francesca Patrick to be dainty and fragile.
But once she shook the nerves of her first varsity start, Ellison’s junior spit-fire was anything but.
“I was a little nervous at first, but when I got on the court and got support from my team, I just played my game,” Patrick said. “I was just staying on them, not letting them see an opening and just be like a pit bull on them.”
Ramping up the pressure on defense with her quick hands and attack-first approach, Patrick registered a team-high eight steals and 12 points as the host Lady Eagles forced 2A Brady into 30 turnovers in a season-opening 68-36 victory Tuesday.
“I wanted to see a good defensive outing, I wanted us to hit the boards, I wanted us to get some steals, I wanted to work on some trapping and get a lot of turnovers,” said Ellison coach Sherry McKinnon of her gameplan. “I really wanted us to apply a lot of pressure on defense and we did a really good job of that the first half.”
Despite an inauspicious start, Ellison (1-0) pulled away early with a 15-0 run over 3½ minutes beginning with sophomore Jordana Porter hitting the back-end of a pair of free throws at 5:02 in the first quarter.
On the ensuing defensive possession, senior guard Deja Pointer stepped in front of a Brady pass and found Porter in transition for the easy layup and the foul.
“Everybody else started getting hyped, especially when we were pressing hard and getting steals, it got us real, real hyped,” said Porter, who led Ellison with 16 points.
After a missed and-one attempt, Ellison 6-foot-1 post Kaitlyn Shearer pulled down two rebounds before registering the putback for a 5-0 spurt in 17 seconds.
Lady Eagles senior point guard Kanesha Saygo followed with back-to-back 3-pointers and then rebounded a Brady miss and found Porter for a fast-break bucket before capping the run with a fancy fast-break bucket of her own. Following a Patrick steal, Saygo caught the pass from Patrick around the top of the key, drove the lane and spun around a defender under the basket before laying the ball off the backboard to put Ellison ahead 19-4 with 1:49 to play in the first quarter.
“We’re really good in transition — if we get a steal, we’re pretty much know this year that we’re going to put it in the basket,” McKinnon said.
The run sparked a 21-9 first quarter and only intensified with a 21-5 second quarter as the Lady Eagles had a commanding 42-14 lead at halftime, with Porter scoring 13 of her game-high 16 by the break, hitting five of her first six baskets.
“JP (Porter) is a really good player, offensively she’s outstanding ... and even as a sophomore she knows she’s one of the players I really need to step up and she’s going to be a vital part of the success of this year’s team,” McKinnon said.
Saygo shot 50 percent from the floor (6 of 12) and had 14 points, three assists and was one of four Lady Eagles with two steals apiece despite playing just 2½ quarters. Shearer added 10 points and led Ellison with six rebounds, all coming on the offensive end as 21 of the Lady Eagles’ 29 rebounds came offensively.
“I was real proud to see us run an offense, and that we could slow it down when we need to and run a press when we need to, and it was really good to play some kids that I’m going to need to come along (this season),” McKinnon said.