When two Modesto High post players picked up two fouls apiece early in Thursday night's home game against Enochs, it could have been time for the Panthers to panic.
After all, they went into the battle of Modesto Metro Conference unbeatens as the smaller team on the floor, and foul trouble wasn't going to help their uphill battle inside.
So, the switch to a zone defense two minutes into the second quarter was one of necessity for Modesto coach Pete Peterson. He had no notion that it would turn around the game.
Spurred on by the success of that zone, the Panthers went on a 17-5 run over the last 4 minutes, 45 seconds, of the second quarter to take a 12-point halftime lead, and cruised from there to a 61-43 victory.
"It was a by-product of having a couple of our bigs in foul trouble and they were starting to get us on the pick-and-roll," Peterson said. "We thought it would be a safe move for us, but we had no idea it would turn out to work for us the way it did."
At the same time the Modesto defense stiffened, the Panthers got hot on offense. Rey Berry's 3-pointer with 4:45 left gave the Panthers a 20-17 lead. Before the half was over, the junior guard would add eight more points, including two more 3-pointers, to give her team control.
"We just played hard and we had to make sure they didn't shoot a bunch of 3s and make sure we didn't foul," Berry said. "We had to get after it."
Modesto's win -- the 10th in 11 games after a 2-7 start -- completed a sweep of the five-game first half of the MMC schedule. The Panthers are 12-8 overall and 5-0 in the MMC while the Eagles had their four-game win streak snapped and fell to 14-7 and 4-1.
"We didn't play well and they played extremely well," said Enochs coach Ted Bergerson. "Their pressure killed us initially. They beat us in every facet — rebounding, transition, outside shooting. We have to play better. They outhustled us."
The Eagles made one run in the second half, a five-point mini-spurt that brought them within nine points, 36-27, with 4:23 left in the third quarter. They also made some adjustments on defense, effectively limiting Berry's looks on the outside.
But all that did was open up driving and passing lanes inside, and Modesto pulled away — eventually building leads as large as 22 points — by getting the ball inside.
Jessica Rodriguez added 14 points and Love Grewal 10 for the Panthers. Shanika Blunt led Enochs with 11 points, but she and her Eagles teammates will get another shot at Modesto in the regular-season finale on Feb. 16.
"We have expectations for ourself and we're meeting them right now," Peterson said. "We'll take this one and hopefully take them next time, and I'm sure everything is going to come down to that game at the end of the year."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.