CAMERON - Following an abysmal performance on the boards in a season-opening loss at Linsly last week, Cameron girls' basketball Coach Joe Pettit challenged his team to work harder inside and control the basketball.
Tuesday night the Dragons showed their mentor they were listening and made rebounding a top priority en-route to a victory against West Virginia Class A rival Valley.
Helped by a whopping rebounding advantage, Cameron jumped to an 18-point, third-quarter lead, then held on down the stretch to post a 47-40 victory against the Lumberjills in its home opener.
Pettit's Dragons (1-1) controlled the boards from the outset, and managed to turn the ball over just three times in rolling to a 17-7, first-quarter lead. While the Dragons steadily watched their turnover total grow the remainder of the contest, they also watched the lead balloon for the initial three periods.
Senior Lindsay Siburt led the way offensively early, scoring eight of her 13 in the opening quarter while sophomore Lexi Benline chipped in with seven of her team-high 16 in the second, leading to a 30-16 upperhand at the break.
''This has been our story through four games,'' first-year coach Lance Binegar said of his 1-3 record Valley squad. ''We dig ourselves a big hole at the half, then battle in the second half only to come up short.''
Cameron scored only 10 points in the third quarter, but it also enjoyed its biggest lead at 36-18 and 38-20 before the Jills began chipping away.
Down 40-24 after three, Valley scored the initial 10 of the final quarter with junior Megan Bucher scoring five of her game-high 20, to cut the margin to 40-34.
But the Lumberjills got no closer, pulling to within six on one other occasion at 46-40 late.
The biggest stat of the game was rebounding as Cameron's margin was 13-5 after one, 27-12 at the half, 38-18 after three and ended up 49-28.
''That is really a great stat for us,'' Pettit said with a smile. ''We challenged the girls on the boards after what Linsly did to us last week and it seems to have worked. But it all comes down to better coaching.
''We had a great first quarter, but I didn't switch defenses enough, which hurt us, and that is all on me. I kind of got caught in the flow of the game and made some mistakes.
''This is a very young team and we showed (Tuesday) that we are still learning and learning about each other. That is a very scrappy Valley team. They have a coach that knows football and I think they have taken his personality on.
''But we are still finding our stride a little bit and I know that we will be all right down the road.''
While Benline finished with 16 and Siburt 14, seniors Tara Paczewski and Taylor Whipkey combined for 11 points and 26 rebounds inside. Dani Hayes added 10 for Valley.
''Rebounding hurt us a lot,'' Binegar added. ''But we also had 19 misses within 2 feet of the basket and that killed us. We also didn't handle their press very well early and couldn't get relaxed at the start.''
Cameron turned the ball over 34 times, one more than the Lumberjills.