Back in action after a two-week break, the Bettendorf girls' basketball team had immediate business to tend to Tuesday evening.
Hosting Muscatine, the Bulldogs were looking to, at the very least, keep pace with first-place Pleasant Valley in a tight Mississippi Athletic Conference race.
Fueled first by the outside shooting of freshman guard Kate Scholl and then a powerful interior performance by junior forward Lillie Petersen, Bettendorf posted a 61-41 victory in its return to action.
"I wasn't sure how we'd come out of the gate," said Bettendorf coach Brian Tritt, whose 7-3 club now sits tied for second in the MAC at 6-2 with North Scott, a 55-50 winner over Central DeWitt.
"We've got some new kids in the lineup with two of our starters (senior guard Kate McAleer and junior guard Hattie Aanestad) out with injury, and they've put in a lot of work over the last two weeks and really jelled well."
In the opening quarter, Scholl had the hot hand to deal with the Muskies' zone defense. She hit three of five 3-point attempts in the period, helping spark a 9-0 run that gave the Bulldogs an early 11-point edge.
"Practices have made it better for me and conditioned me to be consistent," said Scholl, who hit five treys to finish with 15 points. "My teammates passed it to me and trusted in my shot. I had to do it for them, because they did it for me."
But even with the Muskies being in the bottom half of the MAC standings, Bettendorf was not about to take anything for granted, especially after Muscatine closed to within 15-7 after one on a Sophia Thomas 3-ball in the closing seconds.
Muscatine (3-8, 2-6 MAC) then made it a five-point game early in the second period on a 3-pointer by Karly Ricketts. However, Bettendorf responded with seven straight points, and the Muskies never got back within single digits again.
"Every time we'd make a bit of a run, they'd answer with four or five points in a row," said Muscatine coach John McBride, whose club was led by Ricketts' 11 points, plus 10 points from Grace Bode.
"We didn't shoot well; we've been struggling to score."
One person who did not struggle to score was Petersen. Taking advantage of Scholl's hot hand from beyond the arc, Petersen took over in the paint and finished with game-highs of 21 points and 16 rebounds.
Petersen hit on eight of nine field-goal attempts and was five of seven from the foul line. She scored eight of her points in the second period to help the Bulldogs go on a decisive 14-2 run en route to a 31-17 halftime lead.
"I think in that first quarter, we were not expecting a zone," said Petersen. "We had to figure that out, but once Muscatine realized we were on fire with the 3s, that loosened up the pressure and they were able to get it into me."
In the second half, Bettendorf shot 60% (12 of 20) from the field to ice the victory. Overall, the hosts shot 50% (23 of 46) from the field.
Next up for Bettendorf is the first of two meetings with close rival and MAC leader Pleasant Valley (8-1, 7-1). The teams meet at the Spartans' gym Friday evening at 6.
"Every game matters with the MAC being so tough," said Petersen. "We know PV likes to use a zone, so this game really helped us to prepare for what we'll see from them."