Despite slow start, Niles advances to Division 2 District semifinals

Published 10:40 pm Monday, February 28, 2022

EDWARDSBURG — The first quarter of the Division 2 Girls District Basketball Tournament was not a pretty sight to see.

Fortunately for Niles, things got better as the game went along and the Vikings were able to defeat Constantine 47-30 to advance to Wednesday’s semifinal against Vicksburg.

“It was very ugly,” said Niles Coach Jessica Johnson. “A very slow start. I don’t know what was going on. We made some bad choices in our shot selection. We just seemed a step slow.”

Johnson said her team got better each of the final three quarters, which allowed them to turn a 5-4 deficit into an 18-9 halftime lead, which the Vikings stretched to 34-18 heading into the final quarter.

“Maybe we were a little bit nervous,” she said. “Hopefully, they got that out of their system.”

Niles turned up the defensive pressure on the Falcons starting in the second quarter, and it paid dividends as the Vikings were to create turnovers, which led to easy baskets.

Seniors Amara Palmer and Kamryn Patterson did most of the damage as they scored 18 and nine points, while the pair also forced six and five steals, respectively. Natalie Lucero added 10 points and three steals. Elly Matlock finished with nine points and five steals.

Matlock led Niles with eight rebounds, while Palmer grabbed seven rebounds.

Niles faced Vicksburg twice during the regular season, splitting their Wolverine Conference non-divisional games. The Vikings lost to the Bulldogs (13-7) 55-47 at home in early February, but got their revenge four days ago when they defeated Vicksburg 57-47 in a Wolverine Conference crossover, also played at Niles.

“We are going to have to find some movement in our offense,” Johnson said about her team’s focus heading into Wednesday. “We have been settling for standing around flat-footed. We need to find some movement somehow.”

Palmer and Patterson were joined on the court Monday night by another Southwestern Michigan College women’s basketball signee — Constantine’s Charlee Balcom. Balcom finished with 10 points for the Falcons, who also got seven points from Megan McNamara.