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Basketball: Denmark girls ease past Mountain View in home opener
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Denmark's Emma Hempker takes a shot Tuesday at home. (Photo by Jay Rooney Photography)

At halftime, the scoreboard showed the Denmark girls leading Mountain View by a 27-14 margin Tuesday at home.

It seemed like the Danes had been in control throughout, but even having nearly doubled up the visiting Bears, it felt as though the hosts had another gear left to reach.

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Denmark's Katie Counter blocks a Mountain View shot Tuesday at home. (Photo by Jay Rooney Photography)

Well, Denmark found it in the third quarter to put away Mountain View for a 58-33 win, moving to 2-0 on the season.

“The girls played hard and competed, but we have to make sure we execute at a little bit higher level,” Danes head coach Erik Siuta said following the home opener. “We had some opportunities in the first half to score the ball a little bit better, especially in the half-court. They were overplaying us a lot, and we were being a little bit sloppy with the ball.

“That being said, we came out in the third quarter and did what we were supposed to do. We handled the ball, handled the pressure.”

After giving up the first points of the second half and holding just a 33-21 lead not much later, Denmark closed the third quarter on a 14-3 spurt. The Danes then reeled off the first eight points of the fourth quarter to remove all doubt before emptying out the bench down the stretch.

Naomi Manoj knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and produced eight total points during the third quarter to flip the momentum.

Following an opening game against Mt. Pisgah that saw 51 of the team's 56 points come from two players, Manoj's trio of treys and 13 points proved to be a massive contribution.

“That was huge,” Siuta said. “That was my message to the girls right from the get-go. I knew they were going to throw a little bit of junk defense at us, so some of the other girls were going to need to step up. She did. She was ready to step in. She was aggressive. She didn’t think about it. She just stepped in with confidence and knocked down those shots.

“We’re going to need other people to put the ball in the basket, so that was big for us.”

Hannah Lopez and Emma Hempker, who combined for the aforementioned 51 points in Saturday's victory, scored all 13 of Denmark's first-quarter points.

The duo only managed six total points in the second quarter, but five points from Manoj and a 3-pointer by Hannah Golden helped the Danes hold a 14-8 scoring edge in the period.

Overall, Lopez finished with 23 points, including eight early in the fourth, and now has 48 through two games. Buoyed by a 10-for-10 showing at the foul line, Hempker recorded 16 points.

“We’re working on shot selection,” Siuta said. “Hannah is still only a sophomore, but she is dynamic as a point guard. We’re trying to make sure she takes good shots. Sometimes, she takes shots too early in the possession and forces it; sometimes, she makes great things happen.

“It’s a catch-22. I’ve got to let her make decisions and make mistakes to learn from them.”

For a team starting just two seniors, slow starts are going to be pretty common. Siuta understands that, and in his first year leading Denmark, he's trying to get his players to realize that the important thing is how they finish.

“We have to be poised and put the hammer down,” Siuta said. “That’s been our message in each of the first two games. We have to finish every single quarter, and we have to finish the game. When we get a lead on someone we have to step on them, keep going, keep pushing and expand our lead.”