Division 2: Chieftains, Eddies advance to play for district title
Published 7:07 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023
EDWARDSBURG — Host Edwardsburg withstood a late Benton Harbor rally and posted a 53-43 Division 2 girls basketball district semifinals win Thursday.
Jon Pobuda’s Lady Eddies (16-7) advance to Friday’s championship at 7 p.m. against Dowagiac, a 54-29 winner over Niles in the other semifinal.
Caitlin Tighe’s basket just before the six-minute mark of the fourth quarter gave Edwardsburg its largest lead of the night, 40-27.
Benton Harbor, however, stormed back to pull within three, 46-43, on Zakeira Baxter’s 3-pointer with just 58 seconds remaining. The Tigers knocked down three triples during a 16-6 run to lessen their double-digit deficit.
But Edwardsburg responded with a 7-0 run to finish the game, including layups from Chloe Baker and Tighe. Averie Markel’s free throw and two Baker charity tosses helped seal the win.
“Benton Harbor hit some big shots, which they hadn’t made all night, and they were able to stay in the game near the end. We were fortunate to be able to knock down our free throws at the end though and seal it,” Pobuda said.
A pair of early triples from senior Mackenzie Schaible boosted Edwardsburg to an early 15-4 lead to start the contest.
Schaible, who made five of her team’s six triples, was one of three Lady Eddies to finish in double figures with 15 points. Tighe added 13 and Baker 11.
“Mackenzie has had several games this year where she’s shot well from the outside. We needed every bit of her scoring tonight, especially in that first half. We would go on a run then Benton Harbor would have one. Her triple near the end of the half gave us a good boost going into halftime. That was huge for us,” Pobuda said.
Benton Harbor scored the final seven points of the opening stanza, including five from Kabrina Mays, as the Tigers whittled their deficit to four, 15-11.
Schaible added four more triples during a 13-9 second-quarter run that helped the Lady Eddies build an eight-point, 28-20, halftime advantage.
“We shot well from the outside in the first half. But if we had taken better care of the basketball, we felt like we could’ve extended that lead even more into halftime,” Pobuda said.
Benton Harbor crept back within four points, 28-24, by scoring two quick buckets to start the third quarter. One of those came off a put-back from 6-foot-5 senior forward Desrae Kyles.
Pobuda was pleased with his team’s defense on the night.
“I thought we did a nice job of boxing out tonight. Benton Harbor wanted to pound the ball inside to her (Kyles). We were able to get her into foul trouble and she ended up fouling out near the end of the game,” Pobuda said.
Edwardsburg regained its composure and outscored Benton Harbor 8-1 over the rest of the stanza to carry a 36-25 lead into the fourth quarter. Abby Bossler’s triple and free throw and back-to-back layups from Tighe sparked the Lady Eddies’ surge.
Edwardsburg shot 17-of-59 from the floor and made 12-of-18 free-throw attempts.
Markel added seven points and Bossler six for Edwardsburg.
Edwardsburg won the rebounding battle 26-23. Markel yanked down seven boards and Bossler came up with four.
Benton Harbor (15-9) was led in the scoring column by Kyles with 13, while Jordan had 12, Mays 10 and Baxter eight.
Kyles, a Central Michigan University commit, pulled down nine rebounds for Benton Harbor. Jordan added five and Mays grabbed four.
The Tigers knocked down 15-of-49 shots from the floor and 10-of-16 free-throws.
“We just need to continue to clean some things up in terms of our decision making and passes,” Pobuda said. “But like I told our girls afterwards, it doesn’t matter what it looks like at this point because its all about surviving and advancing. This is what we’ve played for all year and that is to get to this point. Obviously, we wanted to win conference again. That didn’t happen, but we’re happy to be playing for a district title on Friday.”
Pobuda has been scouting Dowagiac, a former opponent in the Wolverine Conference, throughout the season.
“Dowagiac does a lot of what they did last year in terms of trying to slow the game down. They are a low scoring team, but they’ve also played well defensively against other good teams,” Pobuda said.
Dowagiac 54, Niles 29
In the opener, Dowagiac took advantage of 13 first-quarter turnovers by Niles to build a 17-0 advantage after one quarter.
Alanah Smith scored six of her 14 points for the Lady Chieftains (12-10) in the opening stanza. Teammate Maggie Weller added five, including a three pointer off an inbounds play under Dowagiac’s basket.
Smith’s jumper in the lane tp start the second quarter made it 19-0. Niles got its first points of the game with 3:55 left in the half on a 5-foot jumper from Lacheryl Hampton.
Smith’s free throw put Dowagiac up 20-2 at halftime.
Weller scored 15 of her team-high 17 points in the third quarter, helping Dowagiac outscore Niles 23-9. Dowagiac enjoyed a comfortable 43-11 cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Niles (0-22) finished the game strong on the offensive end, outscoring Dowagiac 18-11 in the final period.
Marlie Carpenter tossed in nine points and Audrey Johnson eight for Dowagiac, which advances to its second straight district final after advancing to regionals a year ago.
“We were successful doing everything we wanted to do tonight. I was worried about Niles coming out with a fast start, but we were the ones that came out quick. We got into some second-quarter foul trouble. Our defense was amazing though and we were able to cruise in the second half and get the win,” Dowagiac head coach Jason Turner said.
“Alanah is a big post presence for us and Maggie dishes the ball well and controls the tempo of the game. That’s real big for us. If we continue our strong defensive effort we’ll be right there at the end competing for the district championship.”
Dowagiac made 21 field goals, including a pair of triples, and 10-of-23 field-goal attempts.
Smith had five rebounds and Weller and Carpenter came down with four apiece.
Freshman Tanaya Brown was a bright spot for Niles in scoring a game-high 20 points.
Alexandria Gerrits added four points and Alizabeth VanDePutte scored three for the Vikings, which made nine field goals and 11-of-20 free-throw attempts.
Niles battled through a tough season with six freshmen up on varsity, along with a pair of sophomores and two juniors. The Vikings will lose a total of four seniors off the squad.
With such a young squad, Niles head coach Jessica Johnson is optimistic about the future of the program.
“It took us a while to get going tonight. We didn’t have lot of energy coming out in the first half. I thought we were more aggressive defensively in the second half. We just need to see more of that in all four quarters,” Johnson said.
“These girls are already anxious to get back into the gym and work hard for next season. Just knowing that they want to get better is a big plus for me. Our junior varsity team did better than they have in the past. They are learning the defensive rotations and being aggressive. That’s what we need at the varsity level.”