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WATERLOO — Waterloo East girls’ basketball coach William Muhammad has been able to move past the basics and focus more on the intangibles within a program that has continued to make progress.

East pounced on Marshalltown early and transitioned turnovers into a barrage of first-quarter points during a 56-43 win Thursday night inside Fred J. Miller Gymnasium.

The Trojans (2-1) scored the game’s first 13 points before Marshalltown (1-1) got a shot off, and held a 27-5 lead after making 11-of-20 field goal attempts and forcing 12 turnovers through the opening quarter.

“From when the ball went in the air (for the opening tip), we had to be loud, energetic, hands clapping, feet moving, that’s what we really emphasized coming into this game and they did just that,” Muhammad said. “We probably had one of our biggest quarters ever.

“Energy was excellent. We talked about overemphasizing team spirit.”

Kerris Roberts led East with 15 of her 24 points coming in the first half, while Amanee Clark knocked down three 3-pointers and added 13 points to highlight one of Class 4A’s more battle tested and potent backcourts. Nia Crowley added eight points and forward Denae Nash blocked a pair of shots and showcased an impressive first quarter post move on her way to six points.

A resilient group with key players that have stuck together into their third year of varsity basketball, the Trojans are beginning to find success beyond the moral victories they searched for early in their careers. A one-win 2015-16 season turned into five wins a year ago.

While there will certainly be some tough nights within the Mississippi Valley Conference, like Tuesday’s 74-46 loss to Cedar Rapids Kennedy, this East team looks capable of taking another stride forward.

“We’re definitely connecting more as a team,” Roberts said. “We’re solidifying and bringing all aspects together.

“They’re the same people since freshman year that I’ve been playing with. I just love the fact that it’s the same team. I’ve watched everyone grow. I’ve grown myself. We’re just seeing everyone get better as a player.”

While East played an explosive brand of basketball throughout the first quarter, the Trojans’ defense was overly aggressive at times. Marshalltown attempted 22 free throws, cutting a deficit that was as large as 26 early in the second quarter to 13 with a 10-0 fourth quarter run. East rested several of its starters down the stretch on the front end of a three-game weekend.

As more players gain confidence and progress to complement an already strong backcourt, Muhammad is eager to see what this team can achieve.

“Whether it be one more player or a collective of players coming together offensively and defensively, we’re close to having a very special season,” Muhammad said.

Waterloo East 56, Marshalltown 43

MARSHALLTOWN (1-1) — Alyvia Chadderdon 6-12 0-0 14, Erica Johnson 1-11 9-10 11, Kyra Feldman 2-8 0-1 4, Kassandra Vest 2-11 0-2 4, Grace Metzger 1-5 8-11 10, Gabrielle Himes 0-2 0-0 0, Aida Almanza 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-49 15-22 43.

WATERLOO EAST (2-1) — Denae Nash 3-8 0-0 6, Kerris Roberts 9-16 6-8 24, Amanee Clark 5-21 0-0 13, Nia Crowley 3-7 1-1 8, Olivia Shannon 0-2 0-0 0, Ma’Kayla Johnson 2-4 1-4 5, Shamya Jenkins 0-3 0-0 0, Charnika Cherry 0-0 0-0 0, Jaida 0-6 0-0 0, Madison Whitson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-67 8-13 56.

Marshalltown 5 11 8 19 — 43

Waterloo East 27 11 10 8 — 56

3-point goals — Marshallstown 2 (Chadderdon 2), Cedar Falls 3 (Clark 3, Crowley). Total fouls — Marshalltown 10, East 19. Fouled out — Shannon.

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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