The recurring question this postseason was whether hyper-tempo Leavitt could play a controlled game if and when the need arose.
The inquisitors usually had the Hornets' run-and-gun offense in mind when they posed the question. But if their doubts ever turned to the defense, the Hornets had a resounding answer for them in Friday night's Class B state final.
Leavitt held Nokomis to 28 percent shooting and forced 26 turnovers in its 49-37 triumph, all while essentially playing with one arm tied behind its back on the defensive end.
Normally a full-court trap first, ask questions later team, the Hornets were relegated to playing an active halfcourt zone for much of Friday night's contest.
"We're normally 50 times more aggressive than we were today," said senior guard Courtney Anderson. "But I think that's a little scary for some people. It was definitely a defensive game that we weren't ready for 100 percent. We are not used to playing a half-court game. But people discredited us on that. We pulled it out tonight."
Leavitt's primary concern was Nokomis' shooters taking advantage of the extra time and space they might have against a trapping defense.
"We ended up not trapping as much as trying to make sure we weren't giving them any skip passes to the open shooter, which is a little different for us. But if it was going to work, we didn't care," Leavitt coach Tammy Anderson said.
Well, not exactly. Anderson admitted that she was a bit nervous going away from what the Hornets normally like to do on defense, but reassurances from assistant coach Charlie Castonguay helped her stick to the plan.
"He kept saying 'Tammy, it's all good. They're covering the shooters. They're OK,'" Anderson said.
Nokomis' shooters got few uncontested shots on the perimeter and managed just two 3-pointers all night against the 2-3 zone. But adding to the coach's early anxiety was the fact that both sides were piling up fouls quickly.
"We had people in foul trouble so pressing and trapping was a little bit difficult," Tammy Anderson said. "We knew we were in trouble when the refs called a tight game from the start. We just needed to adjust to that, and part of that was we may not be able to play as frantic as we wanted to."
"When we get fouls, we tend to slack off, but that wasn't the case today," junior forward Adrianna Newton said. "Everyone just kept pushing through until we all fouled out, especially Kristen (Anderson). Even though she had three fouls, she went as hard as she could."
The younger Anderson picked up her third foul a little over a minute into the third quarter. Yet that is when the Hornets' most suffocating defensive stretch began. They held the Warriors to just two field goals for the rest of the quarter while forcing nine turnovers and doubled their lead to 10 points.
Instead of trapping, Anderson told her players to fake the trap but keep some space between them and the ball-handler and clog the passing lane rather than apply direct pressure.
The idea was still to force turnovers and allow the offense to shift into high gear for transition baskets, as the Hornets love to do, but the method was just a little different.
"We just tried to pressure them into throwing the ball away," senior guard Abbey Randall said. "That's how we get our steals and fast breaks."
The Hornets made it look easier that it actually was, according to coach Anderson.
"It's hard to slow them down," she said. "I'm telling them, 'You've got to be careful,' but they're so pumped up. It's the state game."