After a slow start for both teams, a second-quarter blitz from Lewiston put the Bengals on the path to their first girls’ basketball win of the season, a 59-31 Inland Empire League decision against Moscow on Wednesday at Bear Den.

Lewiston coach Karlee Wilson felt her athletes experienced some “jitters” early on as they played with a significant contingent of their own fans present for the first time this season (their previous two outings having come in the Boise area), but “settled in” for a strong showing on offense and defense to improve to 1-2.

The opening quarter was marred by turnovers and low field-goal conversion rates on both ends of the court, and finished with the score tied at 6. All of Lewiston’s points in that period came from inside baskets by junior post Katy Wessels, while Moscow (1-2) got two points each from Grace Nauman, Jessika Lassen and Peyton Watson.

The Bengals drastically changed the complexion of the game as they scored the first 18 points of the second before a Lassen layup finally broke their run with less than 90 seconds on the clock until intermission, which ultimately came with Lewiston up 27-9. The 6-foot-3-inch Wessels remained a consistent threat under the hoop throughout the game, and her teammates caught on from long range in the second quarter — especially Zoie Kessinger, who hit two 3-pointers during the Lewiston run.

Wilson noted that Wessels’ inside presence drew Moscow defenders away and helped create the openings for other players around the perimeter.

“When (Wessels) starts scoring down low, we’re able to get more wide-open shots,” she said.

Moscow came out of halftime attempting to fast-track, while the Bengals switched to a full-court press defense. The Bears were able to add double-digit point totals in each of the final two quarters, but continued to be comfortably outscored, with many of their down-court passes on fast breaks sailing out-of-bounds or being intercepted.

Wessels was the overall top scorer for the game with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the field, while Kessinger had five field goals — including three from outside — for 13 points, and Emily Collins hit two 3s of her and finished with eight points.

Wilson emphasized the on-ball defense of guards Ahnika U’Ren, Karli Taylor and Collins as key to creating the pressure that led to many Moscow turnovers.

For the Bears, Lola Johns shot 4-of-4 from the foul line and had a team-high eight points, Knott finished with two 3s for six, and Watson totaled five.

“We definitely need to clean up our turnovers,” Moscow coach Alexa Hardick said. “It’s always kind of tough at the beginning of the year; a new team, people in some new positions. I thought Peyton Watson did a really good job defending and boxing out tonight. I was really proud of her.”

Lewiston makes its home debut at 7 p.m. Saturday against Sandpoint, while Moscow is back in action at Coeur d’Alene on Friday.

LEWISTON (1-2)

Emily Collins 2 2-2 8, Ahnika U’Ren 1 3-4 6, Sidney Arelleno 1 0-0 2, Katy Wessels 9 1-4 19, Zoie Kessinger 5 0-0 13, Jenika Ortiz 2 0-0 4, Asiya Salim 1 0-0 2, Madi Jackson 0 0-0 0, Karli Taylor 0 3-3 3, Lilly Samuels 0 0-0 0, Savanah Burke 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 9-13 59.

MOSCOW (1-2)

McKenna Knott 2 0-0 6, Angela Lassen 1 0-2 2, Megan Heyns 1 0-0 2, Aneesha Shrestha 0 0-0 0, Grace Nauman 1 0-0 2, Peyton Watson 2 1-2 5, Kennedy Thompson 0 0-0 0, Jessika Lassen 2 0-0 4, Myah Parsons 0 0-0 0, Lola Johns 2 4-4 8, Maya Anderson 0 2-3 2. Totals 11 7-11 31.

Lewiston 6 21 16 16—59

Moscow 6 3 12 10—31

3-point goals — Kessinger 3, Collins 2, U’Ren, Knott 2.

Wendt may be contacted at (208) 848-2268, or sports@lmtribune.com.

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