by Greg Starks
Continuing their domination of the WBDA Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Reign moved to 5-0 on the season with a 115-68 victory over the New Jersey Sting in Cherry Hill on Sunday afternoon, June 9.
Before the game, Coach Tanae Davis-Cain of the Reign spoke about whether her team might be a little unfocused coming into this game after demolishing the Lake Erie Strive, 132-53. Though some teams may take their foot off the gas pedal after such a lopsided win, Davis-Cain said that “they don’t take anyone lightly.” She believes that her team is focused and will continue to keep their undefeated season alive.
From the beginning of the game, the Reign started playing full-court defense, with the goal of limiting the Sting’s transition offense and to force turnovers. Their game plan was working perfectly as they jumped out to secure an early lead. When they were in their half-court offensive sets, they played with a very calculated pace. Each play was designed to get their shooters open looks or to give them good opportunities at the rim. The Sting had a sluggish transition defense, and the Reign took full advantage.
After a defensive rebound, the Reign looked to run down the court to get easy looks at the rim or dish it out to the shooters on the wings for a three-on-two fast break. During the closing minutes of the first quarter, however, turnovers started becoming a problem. They started making bad passes, or they wouldn’t be paying attention and the Sting would take advantage by stealing the ball.
The Reign seemed to have gotten a little too comfortable with the lead they had, and began conceding rebounds The Sting were able to score on second chance opportunities after grabbing the rebound of a missed shot. At the end of the first quarter, they were still leading the Sting, 26-16.
Early in the second quarter, the Reign stopped playing full-court defense and relied on their half-court defense to get stops for them. Rebounding still appeared to be a glaring issue, and the Sting began to take advantage of that flaw. The Sting began to cut into the lead through converting more second-chance baskets.
The Reign then went back to their full-court defense and forced the Sting to go quicker than they would have liked. The Sting began throwing the ball out of bounds or just passing it right into the hands of a Reign defender. At the end of the first half, it was clear that their defense was dominating this game.
During halftime, Davis-Cain had told her team to simply, “stop turning the ball over,” recalling how the Sting scored most of their points from turnovers that her team committed. When asked if she spoke to her team about the lack of rebounding, she said that she simply told her post players “to do their job.” She explained how her players “weren’t in position to grab rebounds,” which had led to numerous second-chance opportunities for the Sting.
Early in the third quarter, it was clear that the Reign were going in for the kill. They amped up their half-court offense, looking to score early and often.
Kyra Ryan of the Sting, however, came out on fire, hitting a couple three-pointers on back-to-back offensive possessions. It seemed early on that the Reign were going to have problems containing her in the second half. At one point in the third quarter, both teams couldn’t miss a shot. The Reign would hit a shot and the Sting would come right back down the court and respond.
The Reign came out on fire on offense, but ice-cold on defense. The game then turned into a back-and-forth battle between Ryan and Brittany Hrynko of the Reign. Everytime Ryan would hit a shot, Hrynko would respond.
After a Reign timeout, Philly came out more determined to get stops on the defensive end. They strung together a couple of stops, and it seemed that Davis-Cain’s words rang true with her team, as they hustled to grab every missed shot. At the end of the third, they were still leading the Sting, 86-52.
The Reign had not cooled off yet, as their shooters joined Hrynko in hitting wide-open threes in the fourth quarter. The Sting’s morale seemed to have dropped, as they just watched the shooters hit those threes and went almost three minutes with only scoring two points since the third. The Reign’s defensive pressure forced the Sting into bad turnovers, which only led to easy fastbreak points. The Sting finally managed to score with 6:05 left in the fourth quarter, and those points came from a free throw.
Hrynko scored 44 points in the game and said afterwards that their mentality coming out of halftime was to just “score more points.” She said that the Sting “scored more points than they should’ve,” as many of them were mainly due to the turnovers the Reign had early in the game. To make sure that the Sting didn’t get any more easy baskets, she said that her team needed “to force more turnovers.”
With stellar defense and everyone hitting their shots, it was a perfect storm of a game. If the Reign continues to play like this, they may be able to keep their winning streak alive for the foreseeable future.
Greg Starks is a student at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. He is interning with the Local to cover sports this summer.