By Dave Pearce
The North Posey Lady Vikings complained about the brand of basketball used in the Fairfield holiday tournament being played over the break. The Lady Vikings escaped with an “ugly” win over Carmi in their opener on Saturday by a 38-32 count.
But despite a 55-42 loss to the Flora Wolves in Friday evening’s second game, the basketball was just a fit for one of the Vikings.
Freshman Kayla Sanford, who has played brilliantly at times for both the reserve and varsity teams, came of the bench and ignited a run that got the Vikings back into game in the second period. But in the end, Flora packed an inside-outside punch that left the Vikings struggling as the Wolves pulled away in the final period.
The Vikings did not start well either half, a statistic that left assistant coach Paul Rynkiewich shaking his head and wondering “why” and “what if.”
“We got off to a really poor start and it was 8-0 right off the bat,” Rynkiewich said of the Flora contest. “Then in the second half, we were outscored 9-2 to start the half. So we were always playing from behind, battling to get back to within about five. Then we would get close and then fall back behind again.
Rynkiewich’s words proved to be true as a recap of the game showed. The Vikings clawed their way back into the game and trailed 13-7 at the end of the first period.
But Flora scored seven of the second period’s first nine points and it appeared that they would run away from the Lady Vikings after scoring on back-to-back Viking turnovers to take a 20-11 lead with half the second period in the books.
But Amy Brandenstein finally stopped the bleeding with a bucket before the Vikings failed to cash in on a pair of free throws.
She nailed a 3-pointer at the 1:54 mark to pull the Vikes to within 20-14 and another at the 1:30 mark to pull her team to within 20-17. Hannah Harness then found Kelsey Owen loose underneath and she scored and suddenly the score was 20-19. When Hannah hit the first of a pair of free throws, the Lady Vikings had finally pulled even at 20 with a little over 30 seconds remaining in the period.
“Kayla shot the ball well but she also played well defensively,” head coach Tracy Stroud said of the promising freshman. “That was the area where we were worried about her.”
But the Lady Wolves would have the last laugh as they nailed a 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining to give the Illinois team a 23-20 lead at the end of the first half. Actually, the Lady Vikings got sloppy on the ensuing inbounds play and turned the ball over with just seconds to go and were called for a 2-shot foul with .3 seconds remaining but managed to come out unscathed as the Lady Wolf missed both free throws.
But as Coach Rynkiewich said, the second half was much like the first. Flora began the third period outscoring the Lady Vikings 11-2 to take a commanding 34-22 lead at 4:25 of the third period only to have the Lady Vikings find a way to get back in the game. Again, it would be back-to-back baskets by Sanford at 3:50 and again at 3:15 that would pull the Lady Vikings back to within 34-27Another 3-pointer by Sanford at 2:10 and a rebound foul resulting in one of two free throws by Brianna Perry pulled the Vikings to within 37-32. It would take a rebound bucket by Owen to keep the margin at five (39-34) to end the third period.
But the Vikings ran out of answers and runs in the fourth quarter, They were outscored 16-8, many of those points coming from the inside, to put the Lady Vikings in the third-place game which was scheduled to be played on Saturday, after this week’s early deadline.
“Their big girl got a lot of baskets inside and she ran the floor well,” Stroud said. “You notice they got the ball in her hands at the end of the game when they needed free throws. But they didn’t hit the three-pointers in the earlier game today. But maybe they normally hit those because we only had the one game to judge that.”
In the day’s early game, the Lady Vikings found no rhythm but found enough intestinal fortitude to pull out the 38-32 win over the Lady Bulldogs from Carmi.
“We just played like zombies against Carmi,” Stroud said.
The Lady Vikings fell behind by a count of 18-10 at the half before the team came alive and outscored the Lady Bulldogs 16-7 in the third period, behind eight points by Madison Worman in the period. Worman finished with 14 for the early game while Owen and Brandenstein each had eight.
Sanford led the team in scoring the night game, hitting five 3-point baskets, a runner and a free throw to finish with 18. Hannah Harness finished with seven and Owen had six. Brandenstein had four.