BY GREG FLINT
CAYUGA, Ind. —
North Vermillion hosted Riverton Parke in girls’ basketball with the winner getting a leg up in the race for the Wabash River Conference title.
Despite poor shooting from the field in the first half and struggling equally from the free throw line in the second, the Falcons captured a 40-33 win over the Panthers.
“Our defense won it for us,” said North Vermillion head coach Terry Naylor. “We executed the way we needed to if we wanted to win.”
The game started at a snail’s pace as it took Riverton Parke over a minute to lead 2-0 and another minute before Darby Martin tied the game on a lay-up off a pass from Kylee Karr.
The Panthers went on a 7-2 run to close the first quarter, ending with a trey from Kori Wood just before the horn.
They increased their lead to seven on a Shelby Virostko lay-up before Kinsey West snapped a six-minute drought that had seen the Falcons miss several short jumpers, lay-ups and put backs.
The margin moved to five before the Falcons made a small run in the final two minutes of the half, cutting their deficit to one with five seconds to go, but Sara Dickey hit a three-pointer at the horn for the Panthers to make the score 16-12 at intermission.
Riverton Parke scored the first basket of the third quarter, but then the North Vermillion defense toughened. The Panthers would not score for the next five minutes, allowing the Falcons to tie the game at 18-all.
Dickey broke the tie with an “and-one” by Rhiannon Grubbs answered with a trey. The Panthers regained the lead 23-21 by the end of the quarter as Kenzie Pollard hit two free throws.
North Vermillion got their first lead of the game when Karr hit a trey to open the fourth quarter. The teams then traded baskets and the lead for the next 90 seconds before Martin hit a pair of free throws to put the Falcons up 28-27 – a lead they would never give up.
The hosts then had a chance to up the lead substantially, but they made only one of five free throws in a three-minute span to go up 29-27.
Finally, Mikayla Kinneer drained a pair of free throws to give the Falcons some breathing room at 31-27 with 2:27 left in the game.
From that point on, Riverton Parke had no choice but to foul on every North Vermillion possession, sending the Falcons to the line for 16 free throw attempts of which they made nine.
The Panthers could not get many good looks at the basket in that final two minutes and they were able to score only six points, allowing the nine from the line.
Martin, who tied with Dickey for game-high scoring honors with 15 points, said the game was about execution.
“We executed everything thing we did in practice,” she explained. “I think our having played Seeger at the Bismarck tournament really helped because they both played a 1-3-1 zone and we were ready for it tonight.”
Riverton Parke had not played a game since Dec. 13 as their holiday tournament was canceled because of snowy conditions and they showed a little rust on the offensive end, but some of that was due to the pressure put on by the Falcons.
“We had a special defense for them,” said Martin. “We’ve played against some of them since fifth grade so we know them and their strengths and weaknesses, but they know ours. I think we executed – did what we had to do – and won.”
Asked how big the win was to her team, Martin replied, “It’s fantastic. It feels great to be at the top of the conference.”
The Falcons are undefeated in the conference along with Attica and both teams will play each other on Tuesday.