Niles basketball teams turn up the defense, cruise past Allegan

Published 8:43 am Saturday, December 18, 2021

NILES — The Niles boys and girls basketball teams are heading into the holiday break with some momentum.

Battling Wolverine Conference non-divisional foe Allegan at Niles High School Friday evening, both Vikings teams soundly defeated the Tigers — the girls with a 75-30 victory in the early game and the boys with a 64-44 win in the late game.

The Vikings girls (2-3) shook off three straight close losses with a dominating defensive performance against the Tigers (0-5), stealing the ball 27 times.

“I was happy to be able to practice our defense, really focusing on getting more aggressive on our defense,” said Niles Girls Coach Jessica Johnson. “That was one of the things we’ve really been focusing on.”

Amara Palmer and Kamryn Patterson both recorded double-doubles in the dominating win. Palmer had 24 points, 12 rebounds, seven steals and six assists, while Patterson had 17 points, 10 steals and five rebounds.

“I love those two — they’re the core of the team,” Johnson said, of Palmer and Patterson. “The way they take control of the court is like no other.”

Elly Matlock had 13 pts and seven rebounds, while Brynn Lake chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.

“The whole team loves each other and they’re always looking out for each other,” Johnson said. “What I love about Kamryn and Amara is that they’re so unselfish. They’re going to make sure all the other girls are getting their points as well.”

Despite the win, Johnson said her team still had some uncharacteristic turnovers and defensive lapses they need to clean up. Nine different players combined for 16 turnovers for the Vikings.

“They just got a little excited and made some mistakes they don’t normally do,” she said. “I feel like we gave up too many baskets in a little bit of time.”

The Vikings boys (2-2) also relied on defense, utilizing full-court pressure after halftime to take a 23-point lead after a 23-10 third quarter.

First-year head coach and 2012 Niles graduate Myles Busby said his team had been struggling to make stops this season so far. He was glad they took a step forward against the Tigers (0-4)

“We were bad on defense, and it’s my fault because we focused so much on offense,” Busby said. “But this is a great time because we’re going into break now, so it’s nice to get our confidence back.”

Dimetrius Butler led the team with 16 points, all in the second and third quarters. George Pullen added 12 points, while Mike Phillips and Elijah Hester each had eight.

“Dimetrius had a great game. The best game he’s had,” Busby said. “He’s been a big part of our program.”

Busby said the pressure on defense isn’t necessarily to force turnovers, just to be sound technically.

“I always tell them a five-second call is the same as a turnover,” he said. “Sometimes, the kids get lost in steals. That’s why you saw Casey Marlin have four fouls because he was reaching a whole lot. Phillips is a great on-ball defender, but he has a tendency to reach, so we’re trying to get them out of those bad habits. We’re trying to build what we call championship habits.”

Busby said he’s looking forward to taking advantage of the two-week break and getting his whole team playing together.

“Everybody on our roster can contribute,” he said. “Every game is going to be somebody different. … So, each guy has to be mentally ready when their number is called. It’s next man up.”

The teams both take on Delton-Kellogg on Jan. 4, with the boys traveling to Delton and the girls hosting the Panthers.