Vikings advance to Class A district finalPublished 7:52am Thursday, February 27, 2014
KALAMAZOO — One year removed from a season that didn’t include a single victory, the Niles girls basketball team is now one win away from a Class A district championship.
The youth-laden Lady Vikings punched their ticket for Friday night’s title tilt against Kalamazoo Central with a gritty defensive performance Wednesday against St.Joseph.
Niles parlayed early defensive intensity into the first nine points of the game against the Bears and coasted to a 34-21 victory.
“Our defense is what won us the game,” Niles coach Patrick Touhey said. “We did a great job of communicating, we did a great job of switching on their guards who were running that weave and we did a nice job of closing out when they got in the paint.
“The girls knew that if they played their ‘A’ game on defense, that St. Joe would struggle finding points against us.”
The early run by the Lady Vikings included consecutive 3-point baskets by freshman Emily Gaines and sophomore Maya Brookins, and Niles produced 10 of its 15 first-quarter points following turnovers by St. Joseph.
Sophomore Elyse Zimmerman knocked down two straight 3-point bombs to open the second quarter and the Lady Vikings extended their lead to 25-13 by halftime.
“I was very pleased with our first half,” Touhey said. “I thought we were playing with a lot of positive energy. We were getting to the basket and scoring, we hit some 3s and we were very much in a flow.”
Despite missing their first five floor shots following intermission, the Lady Vikings took their defensive performance to another level in the third quarter, forcing eight missed shots in as many attempts and nine turnovers by St.Joseph.
Niles then missed all eight of its fourth-quarter shot attempts, but more than offset ice-cold offense with red-hot defense.
“They were a little down and disappointed about what they did in the second half, but our defense was constant and our defense is what won us the game,” Touhey said.
Gaines led all scorers with 12 points, while Zimmerman chipped in with nine. The Lady Vikings shot 34.1 percent from the field (14-of-41) and finished with 18 turnovers. Niles was outrebounded, 33-25, and senior Tatyanna Goodson collected 10 rebounds for the winners.
St. Joseph (8-14) got 10 points from Randi Dortch. The Bears shot a chilly 21.8 percent afield (7-of-32) and turned the ball over 26 times.
Friday’s 7 p.m. contest for the 14-8 Lady Vikings will be their third this season against Kalamazoo Central.
The Maroon Giants won the first two games by an average of 25 points, but Touhey is confident that his team will be ready.
“They’ve been a tough matchup for us, but we’re not going to back down from them,” he said. “We’re going to want to win this thing, and that’s a good feeling.
“We will come out Friday with both barrels loaded and with a lot of energy for the fight. It will be a war and I think our kids will be ready to get after it.
Niles 34, St. Joseph 21
ST. JOSEPH 21
Casandra Singler 1 1-2 3, Robyn Priebe 0 2-8 2, Makenzie Arent 0 2-2 2, Sarah Punches 0 0-0 0, Randi Dortch 5 0-2 10, Madeline Paul 0 0-0 0, Mya Robinson 0 0-0 0, Dominique Thomas 1 2-2 4, Haley Adams 0 0-0 0. Totals: 7 7-16 21
Elyse Zimmerman 3 1-2 9, Maya Brookins 1 0-0 3, Tatyanna Goodson 2 0-0 4, Emily Gaines 5 -1 12, Jazmin Brann 2 0-0 4, Libby Moody 1 0-0 2, Kylee Myer 0 0-0 0, Antonia Parker 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 2-3 34.
St. Joseph 5 13 15 21
Niles 15 25 33 34
3-point baskets: St. Joseph 0, Niles 4 (Zimmerman 2, Brookins, Gaines).Total fouls (fouled out): St. Joseph 7 (none), Niles 10 (none). Varsity records: St. Joseph 8-14, Niles 14-8