Once, twice, sometimes three times, the North Park girls basketball team got an offensive rebound on a possession.
It was the Wildcats' ability to get position in the paint that made the difference in their 55-35 victory against Hayden on Saturday.
"We have to hit the rebounds," Tigers coach Stephanie Davis said. "Reboun----ding is why we lost the game."
Of North Park's 55 points, 22 came on second and third shots. Cassie Corkle, Joy Nameth and Kelsey Souza, who finished with a game-high 18 points, have good size, but none of the three Wildcats is taller than 5-foot-10.
"It's definitely hard to get in front of your girl when she has you pinned," Hayden freshman Kylee Sweetser said.
But Sweetser added that the team should have done a better job, especially with comparable height.
Without that sizable edge on the offensive glass, North Park would not have won by 20 points, Davis said.
"That should have been a 10-point game," she said.
Defensively, both teams played zone, daring the other to score from the perimeter. Both teams also forced turnovers out of their full-court press and gave up easy points in transition.
"Our press is getting tougher, and our ability to handle it is getting tougher," Davis said.
The difference came in the first 16 minutes, when North Park outscored Hayden 29-16, including 20 points on second and third attempts. The 13-point deficit was too much for the Tigers to overcome. North Park began to stall with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter and went on to win by 20.
Hayden made more perimeter shots than North Park, and the Tigers' ability to hit outside looks will force teams to adjust defensively as the season progresses.
Hayden guard Mariah Doolin finished with a team-high 11 points. Perimeter players Sara Sumerlin had six points, Jacquelyn Denker had four points, and Emily Whiteman also had six points, four assists and three steals.
"The middle was wide open," said Sweetser, who finished with four points. "I think if we would have worked the middle more, we would have had more shots."
The Tigers finished with 13 steals, which caught the attention of Davis. She has been trying to get Hayden to push the tempo and pass better in transition. The Tigers did both more effectively in the loss.
Saturday's game was Hayden's final one before the winter break. The Tigers (2-4 overall) resume play at 7 p.m. Jan. 6 against West Grand in Hayden. It is the league opener.