STREATOR — The Streator Lady Bulldogs had an advantage in the paint Monday evening, and they made the most of it.
Junior post Natali Haynes scored 25 points, pulled down 21 rebounds and blocked three Panthers shots to boot here at Pops Dale Gymnasium as Streator's girls led throughout to score their first-ever Illinois Central Eight Conference win and get back to .500 on the season, 41-23 over visiting Manteno.
"We came out strong, and we've improved a lot from last season," said Haynes, who followed up a four-point opening quarter with six in the second, 10 in the third and five more in the fourth.
"When there's a team we have a height advantage against, we need to get to the boards and work inside more than anything. That's where the points are going to come from. Our guards do a great job getting us the ball inside and letting us work, and our guards do a great job driving too when they have a height advantage, because we do have some taller guards."
That height advantage all over the floor allowed the Lady Bulldogs — led by Haynes' 25 points as well as three from fellow post Chloe Baker, four from sophomore guard Anna Hoffmeyer and five courtesy of junior guard Jozie Cole — to stand tall, figuratively and literally, in a contest in which both teams suffered through bouts of turnovers and missed shots.
Without a game in the paint to lean upon, Manteno (3-3 overall, 0-1 ICE) struggled to overcome its miscues and misfires, with Hoffmeyer, Cole and junior Dezirea Jordan relentlessly harassing the Panthers' ballhandlers.
And on the other end, the visitors simply had no answer for Haynes.
"Our turnovers have always been one of our struggles, and we're still working on that with the youth we have handling the basketball," Manteno coach Bethany Stritar said. "I liked out intensity, and that created some opportunities for us, but we just couldn't quite finish ... and (Haynes) is a good player.
"She knows how to use her body, and she battles hard and gets good position. It's not like she just depends on how tall she is. We work on (combating that), but it's hard to practice against that when we don't have anyone to simulate that (height)."
The Panthers came in averaging 37.4 points per game, but were held by the Streator defense to single digits in each of the game's first three quarters — including just two points in both the first and third — and 21% shooting from the floor. Gianna Boros, Kenna Selk and Ashtyn Wischnowski led Manteno with six points apiece.
"I've been happy with the way we've played defense this year, for the most part ..." said Lady Bulldogs coach Beau Albert. "That was a great team win. I couldn't be more proud of the girls battling through some adversity there when (Manteno) started to make a run."
Streator led 19-10 at halftime, but it was a strong third quarter that truly put the home "W" away.
A pair of Haynes buckets off nice-look Cole passes — the latter on a two-thirds-court inbounds baseball pass which led to a Haynes layup with 5.1 seconds remaining in the period — bookended the third, with Baker adding a free throw to put the Lady Bulldogs ahead 30-12 by quarter's end.
"That puts us at 3-3 now and 1-1 in the conference," said Lady 'Dogs coach Beau Albert. "I know Manteno is trying to build their program too with some young players, but we've been through it for a long time, and we've got to take advantage of it when we have the chance to win those games.
"The thing I like about this team is, yeah we've lost three games, but we haven't been blown out by anybody. They've all been close and come down to the last couple minutes ... and tonight it was nice getting some momentum in the third quarter, jumping out to a comfortable lead there and kind of relaxing there in the fourth."
At Pops Dale Gymnasium, Streator
Streator 41, Manteno 23
(Key: FG FT-FTA TP)
MANTENO (23) — G. Boros 3 0-0 6, Selk 2 0-0 6, Singleton 1 0-0 2, Wischnowski 3 0-0 6, Riner 1 1-2 3, C. Boros 0 0-0 0, Thomas 0 0-2 0, Mason 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 1-4 23.
STREATOR (41) — Cole 2 0-0 5, Hoffmeyer 2 0-0 4, Jordan 0 0-0 0, Baker 1 1-2 3, Haynes 11 3-7 25, Phillis 0 0-0 0, Lane 0 0-0 0, Krohe 1 0-0 2, Seaton 1 0-0 2, Kosur 0 0-0 0, Perez 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 4-9 41.
Manteno (3-3, 0-1) 2 8 2 11 — 23
Streator (3-3, 1-1) 8 11 11 11 — 41
3-point goals - Manteno 2 (Selk 2); Streator 1 (Cole 1). Total fouls (none fouled out) - Manteno 7; Streator 6.