MADISON — For all of the changes basketball has undergone, from emphasis on 3-point shooting ratios to plus-minus statistical analysis, from the triangle offense to a hundred different wrinkles in defensive game plans, there’s still one thing that matters.

Good, old-fashioned, roll up the shirt sleeves and get dirty effort.

The Madison girls basketball team proved the old adage true again on Friday night with a 51-30 thumping of rival Monmouth in a Mountain Valley Conference matchup. Yes, the Bulldogs shot better than 50 percent from the floor through three quarters and yes the zone press was something the Mustangs hadn’t seen much this season.

Yet at the end of the day, it was a six-player rotation that carried Madison — and has all winter in a season that now counts seven wins against only three losses.

“We played hard against a good team and made them make some mistakes,” Madison head coach Al Veneziano said. “We talked a little bit about that before — about us taking control of games. In games we’ve taken control of, we’ve looked really good.

“We have some really tough teams coming over our last eight games. We have to continue that effort and make sure we’re ready to play every night, because we know they will be.”

The standing rivalry with Monmouth mattered to the Bulldogs, but only to an extend. Senior Katie Worthen was happier to point out that Friday night’s effort was the team’s best of the season.

Notice the omission of the word “win.” This one was all about “effort.”

“I think that’s the best we’ve come out in any game this season,” Worthen said. “I think (the rivalry) was part or it. We wanted to beat them, but we just seemed to have it tonight.”

Basketball, with all its stops and starts, elbows-up post play and full-court defending is taxing — even on young bodies.

With only brief respite for any member of the Bulldogs’ starting five Friday, with sophomore Lillian Levesque serving as the lone super sub off the bench, it’s a point of pride for this Madison group. They’re going to play, and each expects to play all 32 available minutes.

“I don’t really remember the point we hit our stride,” Worthen said. “It was mental toughness, motivation and drive. We keep each other going. If any of us get down, we help each other up.”

From soccer straight through softball in the spring, Madison’s core group is comprised of three-sport athletes. Emily Edgerly, Lauria LeBlanc and Worthen among them all play — and perform — in three different seasons during the season.

Veneziano believes it plays a significant role, both physically and mentally, for the Bulldogs.

“Very much,” Veneziano said. “We get in our conditioning and make sure they work hard — but they’re three-sport athletes. They’re not just basketball players.

“For me, that helps a lot.”

Just as it did Friday night.

Against Monmouth (8-2), the Bulldogs covered every inch of the floor.

They grabbed rebounds at both ends, they pressured Mustang ball-handlers from hoop to hoop, they won the race to every loose ball.

It wasn’t a wild new scheme Veneziano conjured up in the middle of the night and implemented during a 75-minute practice session. It wasn’t the zone defense many MVC teams employ. It wasn’t even a second quarter in which the Bulldogs shot 7 for 11 from the floor, nor was it a 15-0 run in the first half or a 14-0 run to open the second.

Nope, this one was all about Madison’s effort.

“It was awesome,” Worthen said. “As a team, this was our best effort of the season, yes.”


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