Vikings upset bid comes up shortPublished 4:45am Saturday, December 22, 2012
Following a 39-28 girls high school basketball victory by Mattawan over host Niles Friday night, one coach expressed his frustration, and the other was beaming with pride.
Niles girls basketball coach Pat Touhey doesn’t necessarily believe in moral victories, but he was the one lauding praise on his freshman-laden team that fell to 0-5 overall and 0-4 in the rugged West Division of the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference.
“These kids are playing above their age, as far as I’m concerned,” Touhey said about his young Lady Vikings, who start four freshmen.
“Maybe some people don’t see it that way, but I say it, time and time again, to ask these 14-year-old kids to come and compete against one of the favorites to win our division and put on a performance like they did tonight…they have the right to be proud of themselves, and I am very proud of every one of those kids.”
Meanwhile, it was Mattawan coach Troy Wright who was not in a jolly holiday spirit moments after his team improved to 5-1, overall, and 4-0 in the SMAC West.
“We took Christmas vacation about four hours early, I think,” Wright said. “That was the worst game we’ve played. Nothing against Niles, they worked hard, but we were lazy all night long at both ends of the floor. We were sloppy, nonchalant, and we were just going through the motions all night long. It was about as bad as we could be, and we still won.”
Mattawan senior Allie Havers had a monster game for the sluggish Wildcats. The 6-foot-5 Nebraska signee had game-highs of 25 points and 18 rebounds to lead her team.
After a quiet first quarter, Havers staged personal scoring runs of at least six points in each of the following three periods. Despite yielding eight inches to Havers, Niles junior Lashonda Greene applied often-aggressive pressure inside the paint area, and the Mattawan standout missed three more shots than she made.
“Lashonda worked her butt off in the paint,” Touhey said. “We had 44 rebounds tonight. That right there tells you that these kids are working and scrapping and fighting.”
Mattawan effectively sealed the Lady Vikings’ fate with a 9-0 scoring run to open the second quarter. Six straight points by Havers helped produce a 24-13 lead by halftime.
A 3-point bomb by freshman Elizabeth Moody cut the Mattawan lead to 32-23 after three quarters. A short jumper by 5-foot-2 freshman Maya Brookins sliced the deficit to 34-26 with 2:12 remaining in the game, but a triple by Havers in the final minute was the dagger.
“The kids worked really hard,” Touhey said. “This week we focused on getting our defense back on track again and try to play the type of defense that can at least allow us to hang around. The kids worked very hard this week in practice, defensively. It was a huge step forward to hold Mattawan to 39 points.”
Freshman Kahlilah Abdullah scored a team-high eight points for Niles, including a triple, but the Lady Vikings shot just 17.3 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers.
“Offensively, we’re going to struggle all year long, but what I have to look at is are we getting good opportunities,” Touhey said. “We have to keep developing, offensively. I think we are getting some good shots, we’re just not capable of finishing them at this point. If we hit some of those shots, who knows where the game ends up?”
Greene grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds, and the Lady Vikings outrebounded the taller Wildcats by a 44-39 margin.
“We’re not going to win a lot of basketball games this year, but our kids are having fun, working hard and they believe in who they are,” Touhey said. “When you’re young, you have some inconsistencies, but you just wipe it out and move on to the next game.”
Allie Havers 25, Kara Harrison 6, Alyssa Conklin 4, Amanda Mohney 2, Brooke Ditto 2, Alison Wright 0, Emma Toner 0, Kyla Nickrent 0, Mallory Lee 0. TOTALS: 17 2-6 39
Jazmin Brinn 5, Maya Brookins 3, Lashonda Greene 3, Elyse Zimmerman 4, Khalilah Abdullah 8, Elizabeth Moody 5, Tala Gentry 0, Antonia Palmer 0, Jaiden Rolen 0, Kasia Dockery 0. TOTALS: 9 8-14 28
Mattawan 6 24 32 39
Niles 5 13 23 28
3-point goals: Mattawan 2 (Havers, Conklin), Niles 2 (Abdullah, Moody). Total fouls (fouled out): Mattawan 16 (None), Niles 11 (Greene). Technical fouls: None. Varsity records: Mattawan 5-1 (4-0 SMAC West), Niles 0-5 (0-4 SMAC West)