After a tightly contested first half, the Evergreen Lady Vikings used a tenacious ball-hawking defense in the second half to create numerous turnovers and pull away from the Liberty Center Tigers in a 59-44 victory in a DIII Sectional girls’ semi-final at Springfield High School on Tuesday, February 20. Leading by just two points, 25-23, at halftime, Evergreen employed a full-court press that resulted in several steals and easy baskets to increase their advantage to nine points by the end of the third quarter.
“They made a lot of good defensive decisions,” said Viking head coach Brittaney Cymbolin referring to her team’s second half pressure. “We actually struggled a little bit in the last week in making those decisions but I think those games paid off in getting the victory tonight.”
The game started out with both teams taking a lot of shots from beyond the three-point line. Lexie Shipman and Hannah Herr each drained two treys to spark the Evergreen offense but Liberty Center hit two of their own and stayed close, trailing 14-11 after one quarter.
“I told the kids if you’re given an open shot take it,” said Cymbolin explaining the volume of long range shots early on. “What’s the point of driving into five people and trying to throw up junk when you’re open? And I know my kids have the ability to shoot it.”
Alyssa Noe started the second quarter with a lay-up off the glass to extend the Viking lead to 16-11 but the Tigers battled back. Sandwiched around another Shipman triple, they scored eight points, six coming on two three-pointers by Meghan Skeens, and took a 23-19 lead.
Evergreen responded by scoring the final six points of the half and headed for the locker room with a tenuous two-point advantage.
The first half of the third quarter was evenly played and the teams were tied at 31 all at the 3:47 mark. At this point the intensity of the Viking defense began to take its toll on the Lady Tigers. Herr and Noe picked off passes and went in for quick buckets. After a few more Liberty Center turnovers, the Evergreen lead expanded and reached nine when the horn sounded to end the third quarter.
Liberty Center scored the first two points of the final quarter to trim their deficit to seven but never got any closer than that. The Vikings pulled away, mainly on the strength of nine converted free throws, and took home the win 59-44.
Herr had 15 points for Evergreen, with nine coming from beyond the arc. “We worked really hard in practice last night and made sure we did some shooting,” she said. “We like to really push our defense, especially in practice, making sure we’re all up on each other,” Herr added commenting on the second half defensive effort. “It was a good night for us.”
Noe matched Herr’s 15 points to share game high scoring honors. Shipman added 10, Abi Borojevich chipped in with nine and Jamie VanLooke contributed eight. Skeens had 14 for the Tigers.
Bill O’Connell may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org