CHRISMAN — Schlarman Academy coach Keith Peoples is taking the attitude it's better late than never when it comes to his Hilltoppers girls basketball team.
For the second game in a row, and for the first time in the IHSA Class 1A regional tournament, Schlarman allowed its defense to set the tone, holding an opponent scoreless in the first quarter.
The Hilltoppers used a 19-0 run in the first nine minutes of Monday's Class 1A Chrisman Regional quarterfinals to carry them to a 59-47 victory over the Salt Fork Storm on Roger Beals Court.
"I enjoyed watching us play the first quarter,'' said Peoples, whose team led 15-0 after than opening eight minutes. "That's two games in a row (Schlarman outscored Westville 21-0 in the first quarter of Saturday's regular-season finale) that we've changed our defenses up and our girls bought into the concept of defense first. I think they are starting to understand that defense dictates the outcomes more often than not.
"I proud of them, because that is one of my goals as a coach. I just wish we could have figured it out at the start of the season. But, this is the start of a new season, so I guess there is no better time for them to figure it out.''
Schlarman forced Salt Fork into 12 first-quarter turnovers and they turned those miscues into 10 of its 15 first-quarter points. Senior Janelle Marion scored all eight of her first-quarter points after a turnover by the Storm.
The Hilltoppers (18-8) scored the first four points of the second quarter to build their lead to 19-0 before Kaitlyn Carleton buried a 15-foot jumper for the Storm with 6 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first half.
"We got down 19-0 before we scored, if you look at it, we won the rest of the game,'' said Salt Fork coach Jeff Carleton, whose team did outscore Schlarman 47-40 in the final 23 minutes. "But, you can't do that. The kids came out a little tight and things didn't go our way.''