Chieftain rally comes up short

DOWAGIAC — Sophomore LaReina Reina provided a spark for the Dowagiac girls basketball team in a game that was pretty dark for the Chieftains Tuesday night.

Although she will not show up in the box score with any points, Reina came off the bench and helped Dowagiac rally against South Haven in the Chieftains’ 45-38 loss to the Rams in Wolverine Conference action.

The Chieftains played poorly in the opening half and as a result trailed by as many as 19 points.

Dowagiac looked like a team that was coming off of the holiday break and was searching for answers.

The Chieftains struggled at both ends of the court, while South Haven took advantage of their mistakes to build a 23-9 halftime advantage.

Dowagiac coach Brent Nate challenged his team during the intermission.

The Chieftains responded by outscoring the Rams 29-22, even taking a 35-34 lead with 3:31 remaining in the contest.

But the comeback fell short as South Haven forced Dowagiac into four consecutive turnovers and grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to reclaim the lead.

The Chieftains would not score again until Kellyn Daly hit a 3-point at the buzzer.

“We played how we practiced,” Nate said about the holiday break. “I challenged them at halftime. I told them if this is important to you then play hard. That was the worst 16 minutes we have played that I have been a part of. But, to the girls’ credit, they responded.”

Nate said that he put five things on the board before the game — intensity, effort, execution, poise and rebound.

“We gave up 15 offensive rebounds in the first half,” Nate said. “We had two steals and layups that cut it to nine, and then we up a possession with five offensive rebounds.”

Nate said his team lost its poise down the stretch and allowed South Haven to retake control of the game.

“At one point in the third quarter we cut the lead, but before we got it, we had two uncontested one-on-none breakaways where we relaxed, they caught up to us and fouled us,” he said. “We were 0-for-4 on those free throws. We had a three-on-none break where we never got a shot off. We also went 1-for-9 from the free throw line during that stretch.”

Nate was pleased with Reina, who has not played basketball since the seventh grade.

“I credit LaReina Reina,” he said. “She was physical and rebounded. She changed the game with her intensity and physicality. We were getting killed in the post on rebounds. This is her first year playing since seventh grade. If you look at our roster we are not blessed with size, so we are always going to have a rebounding disadvantage. She is playing basketball for three years, so there is a learning curve. She is learning every day, but she brings the effort and has a positive attitude.”

The Rams (4-4) jumped out to an 11-6 first quarter lead and built up a 19-point advantage before the Chieftains (2-5) mounted a comeback in the second half.

Trailing 23-9 entering the third quarter, Dowagiac turned up the defensive pressure, and forced numerous South Haven turnovers that it converted to easy baskets.

By the end of the third quarter, the Chieftains had cut the Rams’ advantage to 34-26.

The comeback continued into the final quarter.

Dowagiac finally caught South Haven with 3:31 remaining in the contest as Daly hit a 3-pointer to give the Chieftains a 35-34 lead.

Daily finished with a game-high 20 points, while Allie Conner scored all 13 of her points in the third quarter.

Yazmine Hall led the Rams with 16 points. Alexus Smith added 14 points.

The Chieftains return to action Friday night as it hosts Vicksburg for a Wolverine Conference South Division doubleheader.

The girls play at 5:45 p.m. with the boys game to follow at approximately 7:15 p.m.

The Chieftain boys team did not play against South Haven Tuesday night as scheduled.

The Rams forfeited their game with Dowagiac following an incident involving Paw Paw before Christmas.

The Dowagiac JV defeated host South Haven 70-42 Tuesday night.

Henry Weller led the Chieftains with 17 points, while Stewart Smith added 15 and Keyshawn Russell finished with 12.

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