Niles, Dowagiac working on improving

Published 7:39 pm Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Niles’ Maya Brookins (11) applies defensive pressure against Dowagiac’s Rayven Brown Tuesday night. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Niles’ Maya Brookins (11) applies defensive pressure against Dowagiac’s Rayven Brown Tuesday night. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

Dowagiac and Niles were a combined 0-42 last season in girls basketball.

The two teams spent the offseason trying to get better.

When the Chieftains and Vikings met up at Dowagiac Union High School Tuesday night, it was easy to see how far each team had come.

Niles entered the game with a 2-0 record, while Dowagiac was 1-2 and coming off its first win in 24 games.

But the Vikings proved that they were much further along in the rebuilding process than the Chieftains were.

Niles remained undefeated with a 53-13 win over the Chieftains, who drop to 1-3.

Vikings’ coach Patrick Touhey made no excuses for the fact that his team turned the contest into a rout in the first half.

“You get to a transition point as a team that has worked like we have when you come up against opponents that don’t put the time in and don’t put the work in and their skill sets aren’t going to be as strong,” he said. “You don’t have to apologize for that as a team. When we played tonight, I told them that regardless of what the score looks like, you have to continue to improve and work hard.”

Niles led 16-5 after one quarter and 35-7 by halftime.

Sophomore guard Elyse Zimmerman turned in another solid performance with 17 points and eight steals.

Despite the win, Touhey said he still doesn’t know how good his squad is. He may find out Tuesday when the Vikings travel to Benton Harbor.

“I don’t know where we’re at,” Touhey said. “I definitely know we’ll compete better than we did a year ago. But we have to clean up some things if we’re going to beat the better teams in our conference. It’s hard to do that in a game like this. We came in tonight, took care of business and the game was over in the first half. For these kids that’s improvement.”

Second-year Dowagiac coach Floyd Foston said he knew his squad would have a hard time with Niles Tuesday night and told his players following the game not to judge their entire season by one game.

“This is a game that isn’t going to make or break our season,” Foston said. “I told them we put it behind us and get ready for Friday night (against Coloma). I feel there are games we are capable of winning, but we can’t drop our heads because Niles blew us out.

“We need to continue to work to get better. After three games, we were better than we were last year. We’re 1-2, but the thing is we cannot get frustrated and give up on the season after three games.”

Dowagiac lost leading scorer and rebounder Ciera Smith in the opening half against Niles.

Smith suffered an apparent knee injury in the first quarter, but returned with 6:30 to play in the first half.

While boxing out on a missed Niles rebound, she appeared to reinjure the same knee.

Without Smith, who had 17 points in the Chieftains’ win over Berrien Springs, Dowagiac struggled to score points against Niles.

Rayven Brown led Dowagiac with four points.

The Chieftains’ biggest improvement is going to have to come at the guard position.

Dowagiac had a hard time advancing the ball up the floor against the Vikings’ pressure and turned it over 41 times, including 25 coming off steals.

The Chieftains will host Coloma in a Wolverine Conference West Division match-up Friday night at 6 p.m.

The Vikings will host Mattawan Friday night. The game was originally scheduled for Mattawan.