SHERIDAN - The Sheridan Blackhawks girls' basketball team got off to fast start as they dominated Hoosier Heartland Conference rival Tri-Central 72-51 on Saturday afternoon.

The Blackhawks (9-2, 2-1) handed the Trojans (6-2, 1-1) just their second loss of the season.

Setting the tone early was key for the Blackhawks as they jumped out to a 24-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. They hit their first-seven shots from the field and held kept the Trojans from getting anything easy.

As impressive as the start was for the Blackhawks, head coach Jeff Guenther still says there is work to be done.

"For us, we're still learning to play basketball," he said. "But I thought we took some huge strides early."

Freshman Audrey Reed and sophomore Brittany Welch led the way for the Blackhawks with 25 and 22 points, respectively. But the defense is what gave the Blackhawks so many shot opportunities and their length gave the Trojans all sorts of fits.

"I was really pleased by the way we defended," Guenther continued. "I thought our length would give them some problems and it did."

They did an especially good job at holding the Trojans star guard Haley Farris to just 14 points in the game, her second-lowest output all season.

Farris had just recently scored 34 points against conference opponent Clinton Prairie and a lot of the focus was on denying her opportunities at the basket.

"We were very evident of keeping her off the boards, away from the basket and off the free-throw line," Guenther said. "She was coming off 18 of 20 (from the free-throw line) against Prairie but they don't have our length."

Bench play proved to be crucial for the Blackhawks as well. After Welch picked up her second foul in the first half she was forced to sit on the bench for the entire second quarter. In past games when she has been off the court for long periods of time the Blackhawks struggle offensively.

That wasn't the case on Saturday as the Blackhawk bench players came onto the court and further extended the already enormous lead.

"Welch went to the bench in the second quarter and we extended that lead by nine," Guenther stated. "Our bench players were instrumental in not only holding that lead but building it."

Senior Payton Fleener led the charge coming off the bench. She scored seven points and had two big steals for the Blackhawks.

Reed and Welch have been the focal points for the Blackhawks since the season began and while both have been able to score big numbers, the success of the team according to coach Guenther rests on the other players.

"They're putting points on the board," he said of Reed and Welch. "But it's the effort of some of the other kids is where we've been successful."

One of the biggest efforts has been the play of senior Rebekah Hopper.

"Hopper has been a leader, she's playing her butt off," Guenther continued. "She's the reason we can defend so well because she communicates."

The Blackhawks will have a couple of days off before they host the Class 2A fourth-ranked Lapel Bulldogs on Monday at 7:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs (10-0) have been beating opponents by an average of 29.6 points a game and should be the toughest test the Blackhawks will face all season.

"Hopefully we can defend like we did today," Guenther said. "They present some problems with Boles at six foot two and two really solid guards. So it's going to be a challenge for us."