Niles edged by Harper Creek

Published 11:53 pm Friday, December 3, 2010

Niles' Alexis McIntee passes the ball off to a wing during Friday night's 36-33 loss to Battle Creek Harper Creek. (Daily Star Photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

All a coach can ask for is from his team is to have a chance to win at the end of the game.

Niles’ Patrick Touhey got just that from his team Friday night against Battle Creek Harper Creek. Unfortunately for the Vikings, they came up short as they fell to Harper Creek 36-33.

Niles (1-1) had two opportunities in the final 20 seconds, but when Nichole Sly’s 3-pointer rimmed in and out and Maureen Craig’s 3-point attempt was partially blocked, Harper Creek escaped with a victory as it improved to 2-0 on the year.

The Beavers had to rally to beat Benton Harbor on Tuesday night, so they were no strangers to the pressures of a close game having rallied from 14 points down in that contest.

But on this night they would only have to maintain a late lead to pick up their second straight win to open the season.

Niles a big winner against Kalamazoo Central on Tuesday night found a pair of problems that were covered up by a lopsided victory pop up again against Harper Creek.

Free throw shooting and turnovers were the difference Friday night for the Vikings. Niles was just 2-of-11 from the free throw line and committed 22 turnovers.

“I knew how good they were and I knew how good we were, so I knew it was going to come right down to the end,” Touhey said. “We knew we had to get one of their bigs in foul trouble. (Bre) Birmingham had three fouls and (Zoe) Weaver had four fouls, so everything worked according to plan. I want us to get better with our turnovers. We turn the ball over too much and that hurt us tonight.”

The game was close throughout with neither team able to build much momentum in the contest.

Niles led 2-0 early on a Whitney Ellis basket, but trailed 10-6 after Birmingham canned her second 3-pointer in the opening quarter.

But the Vikings came back and ended up down just 14-12 when Savannah Wolnik hit one of two free throws with 1:09 left in the first period.

Harper Creek looked to be taking control in the second quarter, opening up a 21-14 lead on Birmingham’s third triple of the game, but Niles again rallied to cut the Beavers’ lead 24-22 with 1.4 seconds remaining in the first half on a basket by Wolnik off an offensive rebound.

Harper Creek opened the second half with an early basket to go up 28-22, but couldn’t capitalize on five straight trips down the floor where the Vikings turned the ball over.

Despite the turnovers, Niles only gave up one basket over that stretch. Once they had survived it, back-to-back 3-pointers from Craig and Ellis, the second one coming with 1:47 to play in the period, cut the Beavers’ advantage to 30-28.

Niles opened the fourth quarter with another Craig three to make it a 31-30 contest in favor of the home team, but Harper Creek responded quickly and reclaimed the lead with 6:47 to play on a basket by Leigh Barea.

Nicolette Johnson’s bucket just over two minutes later gave Harper Creek a 34-31 lead with five minutes left in the game.

Sly cut the lead to 34-33 with 3:37 to play, but the Vikings were unable to get the lead back and Weaver’s basket with 47.6 showing on the clock concluded the scoring.

Niles made a couple of nice defensive plays to get possession of the basketball, but was unable to convert on any of its offensive chances in the final 40 seconds of the contest.

Defensively the Vikings played well enough to win as they did not allow a single Beaver to reach double figures. Birmingham led Harper Creek with nine, while Johnson and Weaver both finished with eight points.

Wolnik led Niles with 10 points. Ellis finished with nine and Sly eight. Craig added six points.

Sly also had seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. Wolnik grabbed seven rebounds as well and had three steals. Ellis finished with four rebounds.

The Vikings are on the road for the first time this season on Tuesday night as they travel to Sturgis.

Harper Creek also won the freshmen and JV contests.

The Beavers defeated the Vikings’ freshmen squad 30-19. Alyssa Middleton, Brianna King and Jorrdan Welch all scored four points. Tala Gentry had eight rebounds.

The Niles JV was defeated 39-13. Alexis Arnold had five points, while Karon Nicholes and Taylor Shepard both had three points.


Nicolette Johnson 4 0-1 8; Jozlin Johnson 0 0-0 0; Mackenzie Leson 1 0-0 2; Taylor Mainstone 0 0-2 0; Bri Burritt 0 0-2 0; Hannah Spring 1 0-0 2; Leigh Barea 3 1-2 7; Bre Birmingham 3 0-0 9; Zoe Weaver 3 0-1 6. TOTALS: 16 1-8 36


Starr Ford 0 0-0 0; Alex McIntee 0-0 0; Savannah Wolnik 4 2-8 10; Maureen Craig 2 0-1 6; Nichole Sly 4 0-0 8; Whitney Ellis 4 0-2 9; Taylor Glick 0 0-0 0; Michelle Briand 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 14 2-11 33

Harper Creek 14 24 30 36

Niles 12 22 31 33

3-point baskets: Harper Creek 3 (Birmingham 3), Niles 3 (Craig 2, Ellis). Total fouls: Harper Creek 15, Niles 13. Fouled out: None. Varsity records: Harper Creek 2-0, Niles 1-1