BY JOHN DUBOIS
Being in a close game in the fourth quarter is nothing new for the Salt Fork Lady Storm.
Ten times this season the Storm has had a lead in the fourth quarter and not been able to close out the win, but that changed Friday at the Palmer Arena as the Storm pulled away late and took the consolation championship at the 33rd annual Vermilion County Girls Tournament with a 34-26 win over the Hoopeston Area Lady Cornjerkers.
“This win means a lot to us,” said Salt Fork coach Jeff Carleton. “We took the lead early in the fourth and then fell behind and to come back and win one like that after we have lost so many close games is just huge for us. It was a big win for us because it may be what we need to get over the hump for the rest of the season.”
The Storm were led by nine points from Emilie McFadden, with Taylor Vice adding eight points. The freshman duo of Logan Sanford (six points) and Jenny Kimbro (five points) also played a key role for the Storm offensively.
Hoopeston Area coach Clint Matthewson felt his team ran down late in the game.
“We did pretty well for the first four minutes of the fourth, but we ran out of juice late,” he said. “This was a very physical game and I don’t think we were expecting that coming in. Our girls keep on fighting till the end of games and that is something I credit to our seniors. We could have easily given up in this game, but we stuck with it and competed till the end.”
The Cornjerkers were led by eight points from Cayla Davis.
Both teams got off to a slow start with the Storm leading 5-3 after one quarter. Salt Fork would get their offense going in the second quarter and took a 16-7 lead into halftime. McFadden scored seven of her points in the first half.
“Emilie wasn’t feeling very good tonight,” Carleton said. “So we limited her minutes in the second half. Toria Plotner came off the bench for us and played some great defense in the first half.”
The Storm would take their largest lead of the game at 17-7 early in the third, but the Cornjerkers closed out the quarter on a 11-1 run to tie the score at 18-18. The Hoopeston Area defense held the Storm to 0-11 shooting from the floor in the third.
“This was the first time we had played Salt Fork this season and it took us some time to adjust, Matthewson said. We were attacking more and being more aggressive on defense in the third and that got us back in the game.”
The Storm have struggled from the floor in each of their three tournament games but saved their best shooting performance for last, out-scoring the Cornjerkers 16-8 in the fourth quarter.
“With the exception of the third, we did shoot a lot better tonight than we have been,” Carleton said. “That was the difference in the game. Our shots were falling in the fourth. We had eight players score and Logan and Jenny did a very nice job with 11 combined points.
“We try to share the ball and have a balanced scoring effort and we got that tonight. We have six games coming up over the next two weeks and maybe we can get on a role going into the postseason.”
It will also be a busy two weeks for the Cornjerkers.
“We have a lot of games coming up, including a homecoming re-match with Salt Fork,” Matthewson said. “We could have easily been playing for third place or won this game, but we didn’t and sometimes you have to take the lows to get to the highs. This was a year where we came into this tournament with a solid chance to compete and it is an experience we will learn from. We are hosting the regional and we are looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Both teams return to Vermilion Valley Conference action next week. The Storm (4-14) host the Georgetown-Ridge Farm Buffaloes on Monday while the Cornjerkers (8-14) host the Storm on Friday.