Seemingly every other word out of Dave Donarski’s mouth on Tuesday night was “go,” and whether that meant initiating a trap on defense, pushing the ball on offense, or swinging it around the perimeter, the Aquinas High School girls basketball team was going to do it quickly.
That fast pace led to a quick start for the Blugolds, who rolled to a 68-25 win over Holmen in front of approximately 500 fans at the Reinhart Athletic Complex.
Aquinas (13-0, 5-0 MVC), the top-ranked team in the initial AP Division 4 rankings and winners of 41 consecutive games, jumped out to an 11-0 lead, and forced the Vikings (5-8, 2-3) into 15 first-half turnovers as the Blugolds built a 36-11 lead at the break.
“That pace is definitely a goal of ours,” said Aquinas junior Lexi Donarski, who finished with a game-high 21 points. “We always talk about starting strong on defense, because that leads to into our offensive runs. When we’re able to push the tempo and create turnovers, we always seem to go on runs.”
Aquinas extended itself into full-court pressure at times, but more often than not, harassed the Holmen offense with relentless trapping in the corners whenever possible.
“It’s playing fast, and it’s about what we do defensively,” said Dave Donarski. “We focus a lot of our energy in practice, and what we talk about before games, about how we can apply pressure, how are we going to rotate, and how aggressive can we be. That gets it all going from there.”
Aquinas used Lexi Donarski, a 5-foot-10 Iowa State recruit, as the point person for its pressure, and her Blugolds teammates helped limit the Vikings to just 8-for-29 shooting (28 percent).
“I just try to steer them into traps and then rely on my teammates to do the rest of the work,” Lexi Donarski said. “They’re normally the ones that make the correct rotations and get steals, and that puts us out in transition.”
Aquinas pushed the pace whenever it could, but when it settled into its half-court offense, the Blugolds were able to get good looks from the perimeter as well as open attempts from the weak side. thanks to rapid ball movement.
Junior Taylor Theusch scored 17 points for Aquinas, connecting on three 3-pointers and attacking the Vikings defense when a close-out came. Junior Courtney Becker, a Drake recruit, added 10 points and seven rebounds for the Blugolds.
Dave Donarski said that his team spends large portions of practice preparing to play fast, and he used his entire bench to allow the Blugolds to do so for as long as possible.
“We simulate that as much as we can just so they can be ready for that kind of pace,” Dave Donarski said. “We always have the same expectation in that we are going to play really hard, and we’re going to defend it like crazy so that every bucket is an adventure.”
Sophomore Sydney Jahr led Holmen with six points, while freshman Ellie Kline added five points off the bench.