Opening the season 0-5, the Venice girls basketball team lacked the confidence and poise to close out wins.
But with a 7-3 record since then, the Lady Indians are learning how to win.
Tied at 26-26 with Lehigh entering the fourth quarter on Tuesday night, Venice (7-8) got seven points from Kiley Poole down the stretch and tough play in the post from Sadie Kluner and Brooklyn Smith to pull away for a 42-34 win.
The victory gave Venice seven wins on the season — tying the season-high over the past three years with seven games still to play.
“We’ve been in these winning spots eight or nine times now so they’re starting to get more comfortable in them,” Venice coach Jeremy Martin said. “Our defense was working. We were filling spots.”
Poole gave her team a two-point lead in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter on a layup that the Lady Indians wouldn’t give up for the remainder of the game.
After adding two more to Venice up, 36-31, Poole hit a 3-pointer that extended the lead to eight in the closing minutes, building an advantage that proved to be too much to come back from.
“It’s really about making those winning plays when you have to,” Martin said. “Kiley made a big shot at the end. It was huge. I told them when she hit that, it’s over.
“She’s been my rock this year.”
The Indians started the game with tough defense — forcing six turnovers and allowing six points in the first quarter.
Kluner was a big reason for the defensive effort as she blocked seven shots and came up with two steals to slow down the Lightning.
However, the Indians couldn’t get their offense to pull away until late as turnovers and fouls allowed Lehigh to stay within striking distance all night.
But when it mattered most, Venice clamped down on defense — allowing just eight fourth-quarter points — and made some big shots to close out another win as the team continues its resurgence under Martin.
“Passing, dribbling, shooting,” Martin said of how the team has improved since he took over this summer. “I thought I was in kindergarten the first few weeks. I’m excited for this year. We’re having a good year and we’re getting there, but I’m so excited for next year.
“JV has only lost two or three games this year. Our future is bright and I’m excited for them. We work so hard every day and for me to keep them going, we have to get these wins.”