A lot has changed at Prairie since the Falcons won the Class 3A state girls basketball title last March.
One thing that has not changed is Prairie’s ability to overwhelm an opponent with a suffocating defense.
Cori Woodward scored 23 points, Megan Lindsley added 17, and the Prairie defense forced 31 turnovers in a 62-40 victory over Jesuit of Portland.
And just like that, new coach Mike Smith is 1-0 with the Falcons.
“I was a little nervous tonight,” Smith said. “They’re a good team, and I wanted to get the monkey off my back.”
Smith is taking over for longtime coach Al Aldridge, winner of six state championship with Prairie. Aldridge, now the coach at Clark College, was in attendance to watch his former team play.
“The girls played their hearts out,” Smith said. “They did an awesome job.”
Woodward, Lindlsey, and Nicole Goecke combined for 12 of Prairie’s 19 steals.
“I am so excited that the season started,” Woodward said. “I was Jonesing for it after two weeks of practice. I’m really proud of everyone, and really proud of my coach. He did a great job, just like all the girls.”
Jesuit proved to be a good test for the Falcons. Post Tarea Green had 19 of her 23 points in the first half, leading the Crusaders to a tie at the break.
But Prairie held Jesuit to four points in the third quarter, 12 for the second half.
“I was so nervous, I was shaking,” Woodward said. “Even coming out in the second half. It was a close game, and we have so much to prove.
“I was nervous for myself, not the girls. I knew they would step up and help me through it. And they did.”
There is a new rotation to go with the new coach at Prairie. But the defense remains.
“We went small and and used our speed,” Smith said. “Just like they say in football, speed kills.”
He credited Goecke and Lindsey Asplund for their defensive pressure in the second half that ignited the Prairie victory.
Goecke had eight of her 13 points in the third quarter.