It took a little while to get going, but Mandeville, the top-seeded team in Class 5A, was victorious in its first-round playoff game.
Senior guard Elise Reilly had 32 points as Mandeville defeated No. 32 East Ascension 55-38 Thursday night at home.
The Skippers (28-1) will remain at home in the second round, hosting No. 16 Helen Cox, who defeated No. 17 Walker 38-33.
Trailing 6-4 with 3:04 to go in the first quarter, Mandeville took control with an 18-0 run that extended into the second quarter and put them up 21-6.
Reilly, a senior guard, started the run with three consecutive 3-pointers and had 11 of the 18 points in the run.
The Mandeville defense was equally impressive, holding East Ascension (14-13) scoreless for the final 3:04 of the opening quarter and nearly the first three minutes of the second.
“We just started playing together early from the opening tip,” Reilly said. “The key was to get off to a good start, and we were able to rely on our defense to help us to that. It helped a lot. I knew I was nervous coming into this game with it being the first game of the postseason. Jumping out to a run like that calmed us down and just allowed us to play our game.
“Now we get to stay at home and get to play in front of the home crowd again and feed off that energy they give us.”
The Skippers scored the first six points of the second half to take a 32-11 lead. East Ascension did not get the game below double digits in the second half.
Mandeville coach Melissa Weinmunson said her team’s defense, particularly early, helped the Skippers pick up its first playoff victory in four years.
“All the talk this week was us trying to break that streak of not getting out of the first round,” Weinmunson said. “The girls knew coming in that this was another goal we were trying to accomplish this season. We had to come out and rely on our defense to allow get the job done. I thought that the defense in the beginning helped ignite that 18-0 run, and that was the story of the game. Our defense ignited our offense.
East Ascension coach Dennis Chandler said the story of the game was the run.
“The thing that is frustrating is that run started with three wide open looks that Mandeville hit,” Chandler said. “I was happy with my team’s effort to keep fighting the entire game. They never gave up. I’m not using this as an excuse, but my team had only two girls who had ever been to the playoffs before.
“Mandeville is the top-ranked team for a reason. They made the shots when they needed to.”