Facing a difficult early schedule with five new players seeing varsity action for the first time, Ben Davis girls basketball coach Joe Lentz knew it was important his team scratch out a win early in the season to build confidence.
He didn't have to wait long.
The host Giants, ranked No. 6 in The Indianapolis Star's Fab 15, topped No. 3 Brownsburg 47-43 Saturday in their season opener.
"It was really important for us as a very young team to get a win this early," Lentz said. "The early part of our schedule is brutal. We needed a win and we got one."
It was a balanced effort for the Giants. Senior center Amber Jones and freshman forward Ae'Rianna Harris each had nine points to lead Ben Davis. Junior guard Lyndsey Griffin added eight points, junior center Danielle Cuttino and freshman forward Erynn Young each added six. The freshmen -- Harris and Young, both 6-footers -- started for the Giants, who had four starters 6-0 or taller.
The game was close throughout. Ben Davis (1-0) took a 33-30 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Brownsburg tied the score at 38 on a layup by senior 6-4 center Stephanie Mavunga with 4 minutes remaining. The Bulldogs missed too many free throws and turned the ball over too often, though, especially down the stretch. Brownsburg (1-1) hit just 16-of-33 from the line, including 3-for-6 in the fourth quarter, and had 28 turnovers on the night, eight in the final period
"Those were two of our key things to concentrate on," said Bulldogs coach Amy Brauman. "We knew they played good, aggressive defense and we needed to take care of the ball. We didn't hit free throws in our first game (a 49-39 win Tuesday over Decatur Central). We just had some go in and out (Saturday). We just have to step up our concentration and hit those. That was the difference in the game right there."
Jones was fouled after stealing the ball with 8.3 seconds left and Ben Davis ahead 46-43. She missed the first free throw but drained the second to put away the game for the Giants.
Mavunga led all scorers with 23 points and added eight rebounds. Freshman Aliyah Walker added seven points for the Bulldogs.
"A lot of people have doubted us," Jones said. "We only had two or three returning varsity players, so nobody really knew what it felt like to play at this level. (The win) was really important for us."