Vikings fall in Class A district finalPublished 8:07am Saturday, March 1, 2014
KALAMAZOO — The third time was not a charm for the Niles girls basketball team Friday night in the Class A district championship game against Kalamazoo Central.
After losing a pair of lopsided games to the Maroon Giants during the regular season, Niles battled, clawed and scratched until the waning moments, before dropping a 32-22 decision.
A 3-point basket by freshman Emily Gaines pulled Niles to within four points with 5:04 remaining in the contest, but the Lady Vikings did not score again.
Kalamazoo Central (20-3) was held without a field goal by Niles during the fourth quarter, but the Maroon Giants meshed six free throws down the stretch to escape with the victory.
Despite the setback, Niles coach Patrick Touhey was quick to express pride in his team.
“I couldn’t be any more proud of the kids,” he said. “We went from 0-21 last year to the district finals this year and we gave Kalamazoo Central a game that they knew they were in for four quarters.”
Touhey’s youth-laden club got off to a rocky start against Kalamazoo Central, turning the ball over on its first three possessions and missing its first seven floor shots.
But the Lady Vikings’ stout and stingy defense kept the more athletic Maroon Giants within striking distance until the offense found a rhythm.
A short-range basket by Gaines cut the Kalamazoo Central lead to, 7-6 with 2:12 remaining in the first quarter, before 6-foot-5 Asia Robeson tallied the final four points of the stanza for the Maroon Giants.
Touhey called for his team to slow things down in the half-court for a majority of the second quarter, but Niles managed just a layup by sophomore Elyse Zimmerman and trailed, 17-8 at the intermission.
“We tried to take the air out of the ball and make it a shorter game,” Touhey said. “We missed a lot of good looks in the first half.”
Niles cut the deficit to 19-14 when Gaines knocked down a triple with 4 :20 remaining in the third quarter. Following a timeout, Kalamazoo Central stepped up its intensity by scoring seven straight points and holding Niles scoreless for almost three full minutes.
Triples by senior Tatyanna Goodson and Gaines to open the fourth quarter ignited an optimistic spark, but Kalamazoo Central extinguished it with heightened defensive pressure.
“We had to at least give ourselves a chance to score and what we did is turned the ball over,” Touhey said. “But the kids executed the game plan, they did a wonderful job and they gave us a chance to be there at the end.
“We have to fight for our points. We’re not a prolific scoring team, especially against that kind of length and quickness. Our offense becomes a little stagnant because of that, but Kalamazoo Central is going to give a lot of teams trouble getting shots off, not just us.”
Gaines scored a team-high 10 points for Niles. The Lady Vikings shot 211 percent from the field and turned the ball over just 15 times. Niles was outrebounded by a 32-26 margin, with Goodson collecting a team-high nine rebounds.
Robeson scored 13 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked six shots. Kalamazoo Central shot 29.4 percent afield (10 of 34).
Touhey believes the bitter taste of defeat will remain with his team throughout the offseason and provide motivation to achieve more next season
“They’re going to come back this summer and work that much harder,” he said. “They got a taste of this, and they will have that taste all summer long. When we come back next year, they’re going to be even hungrier.”
Kalamazoo Central 32, Niles 22
Elyse Zimmerman 4, Maya Brookins 0, Tatyanna Goodson 5, Emily Gaines 10, Jazmin Brann 3, Libby Moody 0. Totals 8 3-6 22
KALAMAZOO CENTRAL 32
Taylor Washington 0, Asia Robseson 13, Aneisha Carlisle 5, Arjanae Morgan 4, Imani Simmons 4, Toshanae Owens 2, Shamari Brown 0, Shariah Brown 2, Kiera Parkman 2. Totals: 10 12-20 32
Niles 6 8 16 22
Central 11 17 26 32
3-point baskets: Niles 3 (Goodson, Gaines 2).Total fouls (fouled out): Niles 14 (none), Kalamazoo Central 9 (none). Varsity records: Niles 14-9, Kalamazoo Central 20-3