LITTLE CHUTE - Nobody would've blamed the Xavier girls basketball team if it was looking ahead to next Tuesday's showdown with Fox Valley Lutheran when the Hawks traveled to Little Chute on Thursday night.
That game is not only a rivalry game but will have Eastern Valley Conference title implications as the Hawks trail FVL by one game.
However, before Xavier could turn its attention to FVL, it had to deal with third-place Little Chute. If there was any looking ahead done by the Hawks, it wasn't obvious, because Xavier thumped the Mustangs early and cruised to a 52-27 victory, setting up Tuesday's matchup.
"It's always nerve-wracking coming to a different place to play," said Xavier sophomore Peyton Ufi said. "I feel like we prepared well and it showed."
That was obvious as the Hawks took it to the Mustangs almost from the tip. After Little Chute's McKenna Joosten converted a 3-point play for the first points of the game, it was all Xavier.
The Hawks outscored the Mustangs, 33-7, the rest of the first half with Ufi delivering the most damage. She was a terror on the press, forcing turnovers and on offense she tallied 12 points.
Little Chute committed 15 first-half turnovers and when it wasn't turning the ball over it was forcing quick shots. The Mustangs were overwhelmed and had no answer for Ufi and the Hawks.
"Our defense is a big deal of how we play," Ufi said. "It's more of our press that really gets them; we get a lot of turnovers."
Added Xavier coach Brian Garvey: "Defensively, we try to get the other team uncomfortable. Little Chute's been playing some good basketball. Fortunately, our press caused some problems."
Ufi plays at the top of the press and showed it's not easy to throw the ball over or around the 5-foot-9 guard. She also helped limit Little Chute's Abbie Botz (12.4 points per game), the second-leading scorer in the conference, to two points.
"She's very deceptive, she's very long," Garvey said. "If you try to throw it over her, you have to get it in the air or she's going to tip it. She's very disruptive out there. She's the key to the press."
Offensively, Xavier has too many players that can contribute to focus on just one. Ufi and Michaela Machurick (8 points) combined for 20 points in the first half.
They didn't score in the second half, but it didn't matter. Erin Garvey scored eight of her 11 points in the second half, while Anna Loken scored four of her eight points in the second half as the Hawks never let down.
"That's one of the intriguing things of our team," Garvey said. "Peyton (averages) 10 points and then it goes, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5. Some of the kids that are averaging that come off the bench. We haven't run into a situation where nobody hasn't picked up the slack."
With Thursday's game behind the Hawks, now they can start thinking about the Foxes, who beat Xavier, 37-29, in overtime in the first meeting, handing the Hawks their only loss of the season.
"This is a very focused group," Garvey said. "The old cliche, 'Take it one game at a time.' You can tell that to the kids; they're 17-, 18-year-olds. Are they going to buy into it? This group, they have. They've been working hard in practice and getting better each game."
"We had to focus on (Appleton) East on Tuesday and then Wednesday we had one day to prepare (for Little Chute)," Ufi said. "We took that and now we have a couple days to prepare for FVL."
- 3-pointers: Little Chute's two-lowest scoring games this season (27 and 33 points) have come against Xavier. ... Ufi and Machurick outscored Little Chute, 20-10, in the first half. ... Joosten scored eight of her 11 points in the third quarter.
- Game ball: Ufi, who was a menace on defense and solid on offense.
- Numbers game: 9 Different players scored for Xavier.
XAVIER 52, LITTLE CHUTE 27
Xavier............17 16 7 12 — 52
Little Chute....8 2 8 9 — 27
Xavier (16-1, 10-1): Peyton Ufi 12, Micahela Machurick 8, Ashley Bovee 1, Anna Loken 8, Erin Powers 5, Aimee Conley 2, Erin Garvey 11, Lexi Kersetn 3, Anna Sobal 2. 3-pointers: 4 (Ufi 2, Powers 1, Kersten 1). Turnovers: 17. Totals: 19 10-14 52.
Little Chute: (8-5, 7-3): Abbie Botz 2, McKenna Joosten 11, Morgan Dercks 7, Alaina Schepp 5, Morgan LeNoble 2. 3-pointers: 1 (Dercks 1). Turnovers: 26. Totals: 12 2-5 27.
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay