Youthful Vikings defeated by MustangsPublished 11:34pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012
The “Fab Five” was the nickname for a 1991 University of Michigan men’s basketball team recruitment class that is generally considered to be the greatest class ever recruited.
Twenty-one years later, Niles girls basketball coach Pat Touhey had to look no further than the school hallways to find what might evolve into the “Super Six.”
Touhey had four freshmen in the starting lineup for Tuesday night’s home opener against Portage Central, and brought two additional freshmen into the game with his initial substitutions.
The youth-laden Lady Vikings battled the more experienced Mustangs throughout the first half, but eventually succumbed to their Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West Division rivals, 52-38.
“For me to put four freshmen on the floor as starters at this level, and six all together in the rotation is a lot to ask of those kids,” Touhey said after the game. “Their commitment to this game is very strong.
“We’re a young team and there’s going to be a lot of learning going on out there and adversity to face because of their youth, but. I am so pleased, because I think the entire game, even though it got away from us a little bit, that the kids stayed focused.”
Freshman Maya Brookins, all 5-foot-2 of her, electrified the small partisan crowd when she connected on a long outside shot less than 10 seconds into the contest.
It took almost six minutes for Niles to convert another floor shot, but the Lady Vikings’ aggressiveness on defense produced an 8-8 stalemate after one quarter.
Niles’ aggressiveness on the offensive glass and an effective full-court press helped keep the Mustangs corralled for a majority of the second quarter, before a basket by Jessica Dornoff staked the visitors to a 17-16 lead at intermission.
Freshman Jazmin Brinn’s outside shot tied the score at 22-22 early in the third quarter, but then the roof began to collapse for the Lady Vikings.
Portage Central (1-0, 1-0 SMAC West) reeled off a 10-0 scoring spurt down the stretch to take a 32-24 advantage into the fourth quarter, and then added a 12-2 run in the fourth quarter to seal Niles’ fate.
“In the second half we were able to bring the defensive pressure up a little bit and that helped us get some things going, offensively,” Portage Central coach Matt Tabor said.
Junior Lashonda Greene led the Lady Vikings with a team-high 11 points and nine rebounds, drawing the praise of Touhey.
“Lashonda Greene was explosive in the paint for us,” he said. “She’s such a strong kid and she knows how to get off the floor. She’s only going to get better as a post player.”
Freshman Elizabeth Moody came off the bench to chip in with nine points for Niles, and the six freshmen combined for 22 points in the varsity debut.
“I thought for their first game they did a very nice job,” Tabor said about the freshmen. “They gave a lot of effort, a lot of hustle and a lot of heart. They’ll just have to learn, as everybody does, for ways to score. Over the course of the year, they’ll grow.”
The Lady Vikings shot just 23.5 percent from the field (12 of 51) and committed 25 turnovers, but outrebounded the taller Mustangs by a 42-37 margin.
“We’re committed to the things that we can get better at,” Touhey said. “We’re committed to developing these kids, and who they are, through maturity and strength. We’re committed to being patient with one another and committed to making it a positive experience.”
Dornoff led all scorers with 18 points for the Mustangs. She also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Senior Reinie Thomas added 11 points for Portage Central.
PORTAGE CENTRAL (52)
Reinie Thomas 4 2-9 11, Taylor Snyder 1 3-6 5, Jessica Dornoff 5 6-10 18, Lea Foerster 1 5-7 7, Alayna Tomlinson 1 2-4 4, Andrea Nord 0 0-0 0, Erika Pueblo 0 0-0 0, Sarah Casanto 1 0-0 2, Robin Moore 0 3-4 3, Shea Mulvany 1 0-0 2. TOTALS: 14 21-40 52
Jazmin Brinn 1 0-0 2, Maya Brookins 2 1-2 6, Lashona Greene 4 3-8 11, Elyse Zimmerman 2 0-0 5, Antonia Parker 0 0-0 0, Kylee Myer 0 2-4 2, Khalilah Abdullah 0 0-4 0, Elizabeth Moody 2 5-6 9, Tala Gentry 0 1-2 1, Jaiden Rolen 1 0-0 2, Kasia Dockery 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 12 12-26 38
Portage Central 8 17 32 52
Niles 8 16 24 38
3-point goals: Portage Central 3 (Thomas, Dornoff 2), Niles 2 (Brookins, Zimmerman). Total fouls (fouled out): Portage Central 24 (none), Niles 31 (Brookins ). Technical fouls: None. JV score: Portage Central 26, Niles 22.Varsity records: Portage Central 1-0 (1-0 SMAC West), Niles 0-1 (0-1 SMAC West)