CAMANCHE – The Camanche High School girls basketball team entered halftime trailing by 16 points.
But when the final buzzer sounded on Tuesday night, the Indians lost by just eight points, falling 55-47 to River Valley Conference foe Monticello in the season-opener.
And it was even closer than the final score suggests. Camanche's Lauren Snyder banked in a three-pointer with 33 seconds remaining in regulation to cut the Panthers' lead to 50-47, but the freshman turned the ball over on the next possession and Monticello made timely free throws to seal the victory and spoil Indians' coach Ben Erwin's debut with the program.
Camanche fell into an early 15-6 hole in the first quarter and trailed by double digits for most of the second before finding a rhythm after the intermission.
Erwin attributed the slow start to first-game nerves, acknowledging that the Indians' impressive volleyball season wiped out a preseason exhibition opportunity.
"I honestly think it was jitters because it was the first game," Erwin said. "We didn't get a scrimmage because girls still had All-Star volleyball so this was our first game."
Camanche was led by Hanna Nissen, who netted a game-high 16 points. Madi Parson added eight points to pace the Indians' attack while Emryson Seeser and Snyder both contributed six.
For the majority of the first half, the Indians struggled to contain a pair of six-foot Monticello forwards, Jordan Kuper (6-foot-2) and Carly Hayen (six-foot).
But Erwin and company made an adjustment, shifting to a zone defense for the second half, which allowed Indians defenders to swarm Monticello ball handlers and cause turnovers and jump balls.
"We talked about it at the beginning of the season that we have to be nasty on defense," Erwin said. "We don't have the height but everybody can guard everybody and we just have to get after it."
Camanche was not intimidated from long-distance, hoisting 40 attempts from three-point range and making 11. Those were the difference in the Indians' comeback in the third quarter, as Nissen made two from deep and Maddie Michels and Kamryn Vogel both made one to take a 43-38 deficit into the fourth.
"We shot 40 three-pointers tonight and I hope we even shoot even more the next game," Erwin said. "There is no doubt that we are going to attack the basket and kick it out for 3's."
Kuper and Tori McDonald both scored 14 points to lead Monticello.
Camanche (0-1) returns to action with another RVC matchup against Wilton on Tuesday at CHS.