Niles earns a fast-paced victory

Published 3:59 am Wednesday, October 6, 2004

By By ADAM FISHER / Niles Daily Star
Throughout the third quarter and early fourth Tuesday, it looked like Mattawan's defensive ability to keep Niles' scorers out of the inside would carry the Wildcats to victory.
But the Vikings turned missed shots into scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter to escape with a 62-54 victory at home.
The win was head coach Jim Arnold's 300th of his career, ranking him 42nd on Michigan's all-time victories list.
The game was fast-paced, with both teams battling back and forth throughout the first three quarters. Niles shot 36 times in the first half, hitting 15 of its attempts.
In that first half, the Vikings used their size inside to get points. Junior forward Sarah Dreher was particularly effective in the first half, scoring 12 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
Mattawan's defense made an effort to deny the Vikings the ball down low in the third quarter. A majority of Niles 13 shots in the period came from the outside.
In the early minutes of the fourth, it seemed as though the trend would continue. The Wildcats built a 51-48 lead in the first minute of the period.
Niles didn't shoot well in the fourth, hitting 5-of-13 shots, but it capitalized on offensive rebounds. Dreher, Kate Whittaker and Melissa Olsen all turned Vikings' missed shots into buckets during a 10-0 run that put Niles ahead for good.
"The last few minutes of the fourth quarter we nailed some free throws and hit some shots and just did what we had to do," Arnold said. "The kids just played a whale of a fourth quarter."
Though their offense wasn't stellar, the Vikings' defense picked up the slack in the second half. Mattawan's Amanda McBride hurt Niles in the first half by hitting five 3-pointers. She picked up her fourth foul midway through the second quarter, however, forcing her to the bench for much of the half.
Niles shut McBride down when she did play in the second half, holding her scoreless on 1-of-5 shooting. She missed all four of her 3-point attempts in the half, including two airballs.
"(McBride) picked up her fourth and had to sit a long time, and I think she cooled off," Arnold said. "I think she just tightened up on the bench. We had two girls guarding her in the first half and she just lit it up from where ever she was."
Mattawan head coach Troy Wright said while his team didn't shoot well, Niles defense made the difference in the second half.
"We never really adjusted (to Niles' defensive adjustments)," Wright said. "Unfortunately it happened at a bad time. We still had some chances to score, we just didn't make them. We had a couple lay-ups that we flat out missed."
After the game, Arnold's daughter and grandchildren greeted him with a cake in the shape of the number "300." The coach said he was relieved to reach the milestone, but didn't like all the attention because it put pressure on his team to win.
"When we broke the huddle to come out for warm up, I said to my team 'Don't win for me. You're playing Mattawan, I'm not,'" Arnold said.
When asked if he was going to celebrate his 300th victory, Arnold said he didn't have anything special planned.
"I'm going to have some cake," Arnold said. "Other than that, no."