ST. PETERSBURG — Through the first quarter of the Northeast Holiday Invitational girls basketball tournament final between Bloomingdale and Northeast, the Vikings didn't score a field goal and trailed by 10 points. Northeast coach Will White calmly instructed his team to up the pressure on defense in hopes of creating offense.
The strategy worked.
Northeast (15-5) scored 25 second-quarter points and never looked back in a 54-33 win over Bloomingdale (8-8) for the tournament championship Saturday.
"It's such a cliché, but our defense is our offense," White said. "We create our opportunities with defense. We made some defensive adjustments, and that's when we started making our run."
Trailing 12-2 after the first quarter, Madison Schmidt scored the Vikings' first field goal, a layup, just seconds into the second quarter. She added another layup, two 3-pointers that were her first two of the season, and three free throws in the quarter. She finished with a team-high 17 points.
"We weren't used to seeing man-to-man defense," Schmidt said. "We adjusted to that in the second quarter and it helped us a lot. We did well from there."
Northeast led 27-20 at halftime and continued to frustrate the Bulls with its full-court press defense in the second half. The Vikings ended the third quarter on a 6-2 run and carried that into the fourth.
By the time Laura Fizell hit a layup midway through the fourth, it completed a 12-0 run that made the score 50-29. After that, Northeast unloaded its bench.
"I think maybe in the past when we would have a quarter like (the first) we were done," White said. "A less cohesive team might have fallen apart. They didn't. That's a good sign of what we're trying to do."
Bloomingdale didn't have any players reach double figures in scoring. The Bulls made only one of seven free throws.
"We turned the ball over way too much," Bloomingdale coach Joel Bower said. "We got off to a great start and then gave up 25 points in the second quarter. We gave up too many second-chance shots. It's frustrating, but it was also a good weekend overall."
Northeast's Madison Winningham, who scored seven against Bloomingdale, was named the tournament's most valuable player.