EARLY — With several members of last year’s bi-district championship squad back, the Early Lady Horns opened the 2007-08 basketball season in style Tuesday night.

Behind a smothering defensive effort and a crippling run at the end of the first period, the Lady Horns cruised to a 55-32 win over the Eastland Lady Mavs.

Sydney Skeen scored a game-high 16 points, while Tresta Donahoo added 15 points to spark the Early (1-0) offense.

Katelyn Matlock chipped in eight points, Sarah Russell tallied six, Julia Loudermilk finished with four and Bailey Harris, Brittany Wilson and Angela Sanderson chalked up two points apiece.

“For the first game out I thought it was pretty good,” said Lady Horns head coach Naidene Tiemann. “We were able to get the kinks out and we didn’t have a whole lot of turnovers. Defensively, we could have played harder.”

Eastland (0-1) might be willing to debate that particular point.

Playing their first contest in a revamped gymnasium that featured a new floor, new bleachers and new lightning, the Lady Horns got off to a slugging start and fell behind 7-2.

But Early quickly regrouped and ended the first period on a 22-2 run. Each of the Lady Horns’ final nine baskets during the opening quarter were the direct result of Eastland turnovers.

“We were able to get some steals off our press,” Tiemann said. “We had a little more speed and quickness out there, and they had a hard time getting the ball over our taller girls.”

The run kicked into high gear with 4:23 left as Donahoo recorded a steal and took it distance for a layup, which gave Early its first lead, 8-7.

Two buckets from Matlock, one from Harris and one from Loudermilk followed before Eastland called time out, trailing 16-9 with 1:28 left in the period.

Early kept up the pressure after the break, adding four more field goals — all following steals — before the quarter ended.

Donahoo recorded one bucket, while Skeen accounted for the final six points.

Early took a 24-9 lead into the second period and didn’t score for the first 4:39, but Eastland managed to shave just two points off the deficit.

The Lady Horns heated up again and finished the half on a 6-1 run that put Eastland in a 30-12 hole at halftime.

Early ended any hopes of an Eastland rally by outscoring the Lady Mavs, 15-4, in the third period to open a 45-16 advantage.

With their first win under their belts, the Lady Horns definitely look as though they will be playoff contenders again this season.

“These girls aren’t freshmen anymore,” Tiemann said. “We have a lot of sophomores, juniors and seniors. These girls have played summer ball and we have very high expectations. We expect to place in district again.”

Early is scheduled to hit the road and face Class 4A Stephenville at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Lady Horns 55, Eastland 32

Eastland 9 3 4 16 — 32

Early 24 6 15 10 — 55 Leading scorers

Eastland (0-1): Martinez 9, Strube 7, Pack 6, Snyder 4, Lowrance 4, Gann 2.

Early (1-0): Sydney Skeen 16, Tresta Donahoo 15, Katelyn Matlock 8, Sarah Russell 6, Julia Loudermilk 4, Angela Sanderson 2, Bailey Harris 2, Brittany Wilson 2.