Chieftains head into districts with full head of steam

Published 1:15 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

NILES — The Dowagiac girls basketball team will head into the postseason with a full head of steam.

The Chieftains used a quick start and a solid performance at both ends of the court to knock off Niles 52-24 in a battle of former Wolverine Conference foes for its third consecutive victory.

It has been a roller-coaster season for the Chieftains, who opened the season with back-to-back losses, which they followed up by winning for of its next five. Dowagiac improved its record to 8-6 before losing four straight contests.

However, in two of those contests, the Chieftains battled two of the area’s top teams — Brandywine and Watervliet — tooth and nail before ending the regular season with a winning streak.

Against the Vikings, who dropped to 0-20 with the loss, Dowagiac jumped out to a 19-2 first-quarter advantage, stretching to 32-6 by halftime. The Chieftains (11-10) led 45-14 heading into the fourth quarter, which allowed Dowagiac Coach Jason Turner to empty his bench and play his entire roster, including junior varsity players.

“Tonight, it was great to come out and play some great Dowagiac girls basketball on both ends of the floor,” he said. “Our starters got one last good run in before districts starts, which was great and we got to get our whole bench and some JV players in the game in the fourth.”

Niles took advantage of some of the Chieftains’ inexperience in the final eight minutes to score 20 points and make the final score look a bit more respectable.

Alanah Smith scored a game-high 18 points to lead the Chieftains, while Maggie Weller added 13 points and Audrey Johnson eight points.

Niles was led by Tanaya Brown’s seven points. Alizabeth VanDePutte and Kenzie Lakes both finished with six points.

The Chieftains and the Vikings meet again Wednesday in Edwardsburg in the Division 2 District semifinals. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m.

“It is definitely a unique situation where we will face them again in the first round of districts on Wednesday,” Turner said. “I told the girls after the game that they should be very proud of the season they have had so far, but the job isn’t finished.”

Dowagiac will be looking to secure its first winning season since 2008. The Chieftains will also be looking to win back-to-back district championships for the first time in school history.