By Mark Schremmer
Globe Sports Writer
The Seneca Indians didn’t lead until 2:46 left in the game.
But once they took it, they never gave it back.
Seneca’s girls rallied from a 16-point deficit in the first half to beat the Joplin Eagles 55-49 on Thursday night at Missouri Southern State University’s Robert Ellis Young Gymnasium.
“We found ourselves in a big hole,” Seneca coach Bob Coffey said. “I was proud of the girls for not trying to jump out of the hole all at once. They just kept digging and found a way to win.”
Joplin (1-6) opened the game with a 10-0 run that included 3-pointers from Samantha Stout and Kelsey Johnson. Seneca (3-2) didn’t score until the 3:01 mark of the first quarter when Annie Howard hit two free throws to make it 10-2.
The Eagles responded with a three-point play by Bailey Taylor, a 3-pointer by Marrisa Queen and a short jumper by Stout to extend the lead to 18-2. The Indians didn’t make a field goal until Howard scored on a putback with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
Joplin took a 21-5 lead at the 6:15 mark of the second quarter when Johnson hit the second of her four 3-pointers on the night.
The Eagles maintained a 29-18 lead at halftime.
However, Seneca started to gradually apply defensive pressure. First, the Indians used a half-court trap and then a full-court press.
The impact was obvious.
Joplin committed only eight turnovers in the first half and found success in its halfcourt set. Seneca’s pressure led to 23 turnovers in the second half.
“We kind of built the pressure,” Coffey said. “I really felt like our conditioning really helped us in the second half. We didn’t sub much in the second half. We made some free throws and continued to run the floor. I think that was the difference in the game.”
The turnovers led to many easy buckets for the Indians. Seneca also was successful in creating transition baskets after Joplin scored.
The Indians also got the Eagles into foul trouble. Joplin committed 21 fouls compared to Seneca’s nine. Seneca was 20-for-28 from the free-throw line, while Joplin was only 2-for-5.
Joplin’s Taylor fouled out with 1:57 left in the third quarter when the Eagles held a 36-32 lead.
Seneca took a 46-45 lead with 2:46 left when Bailey Skelton made a short jumper. Skelton followed with a steal and a layup. Then Mirana Heath scored on a fastbreak off a steal with 2 minutes left to take a 50-45 lead.
Skelton and Molli Cooper scored 17 points each for Seneca.
Johnson and Danielle Hollingshead scored 12 points each for the Eagles.
Seneca will travel to play Miami, Okla., on Monday, while Joplin will be at home against Springfield Central.
“We got to understand the big picture,” Joplin coach Dustin Larsen said. “We’re continuing to learn and grow. We got to learn from our mistakes. Costly mistakes. It’s early in the season. We’ve got to keep working and keep our focus and stay the course.”