Niles girls snap losing streak; Viking boys still atop league standings
Published 4:18 am Saturday, January 27, 2024
THREE RIVERS — A great second-half effort propelled the Niles girls’ basketball team to a 54-45 Wolverine Conference win at Three Rivers Friday night.
First-year Niles Coach Sarah Workman saw her Vikings notch their first win of the season and end the program’s 34-game losing streak.
Niles, now 1-11 overall, took a 39-35 lead into the fourth quarter.
Jennaya Decker of Three Rivers netted the second of two free-throw attempts to pull the Lady Cats within three, 39-36 just 12 seconds into the final period.
Niles, however, expanded its lead to five, 41-36, on a layup from sophomore Tanaya Brown. But the Lady Cats quickly reduced the deficit to two, 41-39, on Lanie Glass’ three-pointer.
The Vikings, though, used a 9-0 run over the next few minutes to build themselves a 50-39 lead with 3:01 left in the contest.
Brown, who finished the night with a game-high 22 points, scored eight of those points during that span.
Three Rivers pulled within five, 50-45, following back-to-back triples by Decker and Glass.
But Brown and fellow sophomore Maddie Zache each hit a pair of free-throw attempts in the waning seconds of the game to help seal up the victory.
Kenzie Lakes, another sophomore, added 14 points for Niles, while Zache and Anastasia Kopczyns chipped in with six points apiece.
Niles connected for 16 field-goal attempts, including a 3-pointer, and finished 19-of-23 at the free-throw line (83 percent).
Elly Matlock added seven rebounds and three steals for Niles. Brown also had nine boards and one blocked shot for the Vikings. Kayla Kiggins had four rebounds and two steals for Niles.
Niles trailed Three Rivers 12-9 after one quarter and 22-19 entering halftime.
But the Vikings outscored the Lady Cats 20-13 in the third quarter. Niles was able to change the flow of the game by outrebounding and forcing Three Rivers into numerous turnovers during the second half.
“We call winning the first three minutes of the second half the third-quarter punch. These girls have been making incredible strides, working so hard and just learning the game of basketball step by step. We’ve just been talking to them about staying composed and making sure they come out strong in the third quarter,” Workman said.
While there were several standouts on the night, Workman pointed out the contributions, especially in the second half, of Lakes.
“Kenzie hit some real big shots for us when we needed them. She came in and was really aggressive and Tanaya was a real huge asset for us inside the post. We also really strived to work our high-low game and post players Elly and Ali Gerritts and utilize them,” Workman said.
“I think our confidence in the second half in our rebounding along with the executing the little things. Getting this win is huge for our program. These kids have really bought into what we are trying to do ever since day one when I took over as coach. When you aren’t winning you can’t always see the immediate results, but I knew they would come. We’ve been making improvement every day in practice and its really great to be able to see them celebrate a win.”
Niles was without the services of leading scorer and sophomore Jessica Thornton who was out of the lineup with a concussion.
Three Rivers was led in scoring by Glass with 18 points. Decker tossed in 15 for the Lady Cats and Allie McGlothlen ended the night with 10.
The Lady Cats netted 18 field goals, including four triples, and made just 5-of-13 free-throw tries (38.4 percent).
Niles boys keep league streak intact
dBehind a game-high 27 points, including six triples, and five assists from senior point guard Mike Phillips Jr., Niles rolled to a decisive 68-48 win in the boys’ game.
Myles Busby’s Vikings remain in sole possession of first place in the league at 9-0 and improve to 12-2 overall.
Sophomore wing Brenden Olsen achieved his first career double-double for the Vikings with 15 points to go with 11 rebounds. Meanwhile sophomore guard Brayden Favors produced 12 points and six boards and senior forward Ethan Chambliss kicked in seven points and 11 rebounds for Niles.
Niles finished with 27 field-goal attempts, including nine three-pointers, and made 5-of-6 free-throw tosses.
“Defensively our effort wasn’t what we thought it should’ve been tonight. We focus a lot of our defense. It leads to a lot of our opportunities on offense,” Busby said. “We want to get out in transition and get our best athletes in space and finish around the rim. We did a nice job of that early, but we started settling and weren’t rotating enough. We haven’t had much practice lately because of the bad weather and its thrown us off a bit. We have to clean things up and be better as a team. That can’t always come from the coaches. Someone has to step up and be a leader on the floor, I thought Ethan did a nice job attacking the offensive boards tonight. He was very active and kept the rebound alive. Mike had a great game as well, but we want to see all of our guys be aggressive and attack.”
Busby also singled out the play of Favors and Olsen.
“We have to get everyone active and be dominant from start to finish. It’s a constant reminder at this point of the season that we’re playing for something bigger than conference or districts. We have a target on our backs. Our guys need to give 110 percent all of the time to dig deep and achieve greatness,” he said.
Niles led from start to finish, including a early 11-2 surge highlighted by two triples from Phillips and another off the fingertips of Favors. The Vikings took control on the inside and built a 17-8 cushion by the end of the first quarter.
Behind nine points from Phillips, Niles outscored Three Rivers 23-12 during the second quarter and expanded its advantage to 20 points, 40-20 entering halftime.
The Vikings led by as many as 24 points during the third quarter. Three Rivers managed to pull within 12 points, 50-38, on a bucket inside by sophomore center Xander Barth with a little over a minute left.
Phillips drained consecutive triples on the Vikings’ final two possessions of the period, giving his team a 56-38 cushion entering the fourth quarter.
Niles outscored Three Rivers 12-10 in the final eight minutes, including eight points from Olsen, to walk away with the win.
Luis Warmack netted 21 points for Three Rivers, while Barth added 11, while Max Burg, Jace Gray and Heston Saunders all finished with four points apiece.
The Wildcats made 17 field goals, including four triples, and connected on 10-of-20 free-throw tosses (50 percent).
Barth and Gray pulled down six rebounds each and Warmack added five. Lamonta Stone added four points and four assists. Gray also had three assists.
“Niles is No. 1 in the league because they play so well together. We wanted to make them shoot the ball from the outside. We ended up giving them way too many offensive rebounds because we wanted to keep the ball out of the interior. They get the ball inside very well and got the put backs,” said Three Rivers head coach Brian Burg.
“We made a little run at them there in the third quarter. But we tend to kick ourselves in the foot when we try to do too much. We’re young and are still learning, but we’re coming around. We’ll see what happens.”