LEXINGTON — It took a little bit, but the Lexington Lady Lex has found its identity on the basketball court.
Defense, defense, defense.
It was what carried Lex to a 38-26 win over Madison on Thursday night in Ohio Cardinal Conference play. And it is what helped the team pick up its third win in the last four games. Lex created 23 turnovers and piled up 14 steals as a team and held Madison to just four points in the second quarter and four in the fourth, all four coming with under a minute left, to prove defense is what will win them games and defense is their identity.
"I like our defensive intensity," Lexington coach Grant Weaver said. "Being a Gregg Collins disciple, defense creates offense and gives you opportunities, and tonight the defense did provide some great opportunities and we were able to convert. We only had nine second-chance points, which proved we were converting at a good rate. When we play great team defense, we can be pretty good."
In its last three wins, Lexington (5-10) has forced a total of 97 turnovers and collected 65 steals. Easy to see what the recipe to victory is for Lexington. On Thursday night, Lady Lex allowed 11 points in the first quarter but held the Rams to just 15 the rest of the way while showing consistency on offense with eight points in each of the first and second quarters, nine in the third and 13 in the fourth when Lex outscored the Rams 13-4 to pull away late.
With nearly four minutes left in the game, Lexington went into a patient offense, working the ball around the perimeter to open up driving lanes and settled for nothing but layups. It worked to perfection as Lex turned a 27-22 lead into a 36-22 lead with just under a minute remaining. Madison scored its first bucket of the fourth on a jumper by Addyson Cox with 47 seconds left.
"I was proud of them because that was a little bit earlier than I would like to start spreading it out, but with the lead we had we weren't trying to stall but we wanted to get a high-percentage shot," Weaver said. "They attacked and made great adjustments when our posts weren't in. I was just pleased with the way we executed there in the fourth quarter."
Lexi Blasberg scored five points in the fourth while Kaleigh Leadbetter added four to pace Lex. Leadbetter finished with a game-high 14 points and nine rebounds while Blasberg had seven points, Lizzie Hamler and Madi Basilone had five each and Kaitlyn Delano-Goodman rounded out the scoring with two.
Leadbetter excelled on the offensive end, but it was her defensive effort that stood out. She limited Madison's high-scoring senior post, Faith Kuhn, to 14 points and 10 rebounds, but just two boards on the offensive end.
Leadbetter said her focus coming in was to play good defense against Kuhn and let the offensive side take care of itself.
"I knew coming in that I could guard her and my mentality was to just contain her and limit her points," Leadbetter said. "I love defense and my main goal coming in every game is always to be the leader defensively."
Weaver admitted Leadbetter was the X-factor.
"She had a great night," Weaver said. "We remembered from the last time we played Madison that she battled Faith very well on the defensive end with her ability to get in denial position and getting her hand on the ball. We stressed during our preparation to win the battle on the block and then double down when (Kuhn) got the ball. It was a good team effort, but Kaleigh did a nice job on both ends of the floor."
Madison (5-8) was led by Kuhn's 14 points while Cox had six, Alexsia Davis three, Savanna Rachel two and Natalee Back one.
Madison coach Brian Davis was not available for comment due to attending to a medical emergency with one of his players after the game.
Lexington shot 4 of 9 from the field and had just two turnovers in the fourth quarter, a much better performance this time around after falling 25-24 to Madison in their first meeting.
"It was important to finish well because last time we played Madison we lost by one," Leadbetter said. "That was a big letdown so we wanted to make sure we finished layups and open shots and get this win."
Lady Lex also limited their turnovers to 19. Although they didn't meet their goal of 16 or less, it still goes down as a W in the win column.
"One of our goals for the game was to keep our turnovers under 16, especially against a team like Madison," Weaver said. "We weren't expecting a lot of full-court pressure from them, but we had confidence our guards could great them down. We had some unforced errors, but I am very proud of the girls' effort."
Lex hosts Shelby on Wednesday. Madison travels to Ashland on Thursday.
This article originally appeared on Mansfield News Journal: Identity found: Lexington rides defensive effort to win over Madison