As two of the more experienced players on this year's Southwestern squad, Alex Sullivan and Jenna Yuchnitz spent ample time this summer building chemistry and gaining a better understanding of one another's style of play.
It was that hard work, and the seamless cooperation derived from it, that paid off in a big way on Friday night.
Their team locked in a tough, back-and-forth struggle with non-league foe Panama through three quarters - the Lady Trojans actually trailed, 35-34, with six minutes to go - the two guards, and team leaders, took control when it mattered most, netting a combined 16 points during a 20-6 run that spanned nearly the entire final quarter to clinch the 56-39 victory.
Above, Southwestern’s Alex Sullivan, left, scores two of her game-high 22 points on a fast break ahead of Carly Abbate in the Trojans’ non-league victory over Panama on Friday night. Below, Brittany Lenart (24), is guarded by Maddie Kubinski. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
And when one wasn't scoring, she was often launching the long pass on the fast break or making a much-needed steal in order to facilitate the other.
When it was all said and done, Sullivan had scored 10 points in the fourth, including a triple from the right corner with 2 minutes remaining - following an assist from Yuchnitz - to make the advantage a comfortable 12 points, 51-39, that extinguished, once and for all, any Panama hopes of a comeback.
Yuchnitz, meanwhile, finished with six points during the game-altering run while also, like her teammate, handing out a pair of assists.
"They worked all summer long and they've gotten used to each other," Southwestern coach Anne Beck said. "We started to push the ball up the court a little more (in the fourth quarter) and when one would break through the other would recognize it.
"They've been working on having that kind of chemistry for a while."
Sullivan finished with a game-high 22 points and also made three steals and three assists. Yuchnitz was close behind with 16 points and rounding out the double-digit scorers was Emily Wuebbolt, who tallied 12 points, including six of 10 in the third quarter to keep her squad afloat, to go along with 12 rebounds and three steals.
The victory was the first of the season for Southwestern, which lost its opener to Clymer earlier this week.
The Lady Trojans will have one more non-league contest (on Tuesday, once again against Clymer) before playing their first league game against Olean on Dec. 14.
In addition to that hard-earned chemistry, another major reason behind the two guards' success was a turnover-prone Lady Panthers' offense. In all, Panama committed 22 - the bulk of which came in the crucial fourth period.
"We wanted to get a lead in the fourth quarter, and we got it," Panama coach Rob Collver said, "but after that we just fell off the cliff. We had way too many turnovers, way too many. And when you do that you lose possession and lose the chance to score. We just made bad passes, and also didn't make our shots. We had a bunch of easy shots around the rim that just wouldn't go it."
Despite their struggles late, Collver was left with much reason to be optimistic. Behind a quick, full-court pressure defense and solid free throw shooting, Panama outscored the hosts in both the second and third quarters, trailing by just two at halftime, 24-22, and leading by one with six minutes to go.
"They played hard, but it was the first game so it'll take a couple to get into a rhythm and find out who we are," Collver said. "Overall I thought we played well, and had a couple more shots gone in, we're talking about a different game."
Leading the way in defeat was Brittany Lenart, who hauled in eight rebounds and scored nine points; Carly Abbate, who had six points, five rebounds and five steals; and Bri Swanson, who equaled Lenart's point total and had four rebounds.
Panama, now 0-1, won't be back in action until Dec. 17 against Division 3 opponent Forestville.
Lenart 3 3 9, Marsh 0 0 0, Abbate 3 0 6, Conway 1 2 4, Strickland 4 3 11, Swanson 4 1 9. Totals 15 9 39.
Yuchnitz 7 2 16, Wuebbolt 6 0 12, Sullivan 8 5 22, Argarwala 1 0 2, Kubinski 1 0 2, Schutte 0 0 0, O'Boyle 1 0 2. Totals 24 7 56.
3-point goals: Sullivan.
Panama9 13 11 6 - 39
Southwestern12 12 10 22 - 56
Jayvees: Southwestern 50, Panama 33.