BY JOHN DUBOIS
The Westville Lady Tigers used a combination of experience and youth to overcome a slow start as they pulled away from the Oakwood Lady Comets in the second quarter and cruised to a 50-21 win at the 33rd annual Vermilion County Girls Basketball tournament.
Seniors Ashley Hoffman and Danielle Gabehart led the way with 11 points each, with freshman Adrianne Pate and sophomore Ji’Cee Lacey adding eight points each and freshman Morgan Gallion chipped in with 7 points.
The Comets jumped out to a 7-0 lead as the Tigers were held scoreless for the first four minutes of the game.
“I think part of the slow start was the uniqueness of playing at the Palmer Arena,” said Westville coach Mike Chandler. “There isn’t a shooting back-drop and that does affect your shot.
“I am very pleased today that our team responded positively to getting down early. We didn’t panic and that is a major difference that one year of maturity has made for our team. I don’t know that last year we would have come back getting down early. Today we dug a little deeper and showed composure.”
The Tigers scored the last seven points of the first quarter to tie the score at 7-7. Following a basket from Hoffman midway through the second quarter, the run would reach 18-0.
Joellyn Weaver scored the first basket for the Comets in nearly 11 minutes, but the Comets would only manage one other field goal in the second quarter as the Tigers took a 24-11 lead into halftime.
“I didn’t call a time-out early when they got the lead because I didn’t feel the game was in jeopardy,” Chandler said. “The first game you play at the Palmer Arena is always a little strange for you at first and I didn’t see anything early that I didn’t think we could deal with as the game went along.”
The Comets had eight players score and were led by four points from Sadie Edwards.
“That was a nice start for us,” said Oakwood coach Jeff Ford. “Our starting point guard Lexy Terry is out and when Harlena Hardin hurt her ankle early in the game it was a big blow to us offensively because they account for 50-60 percent of our scoring. We had a lot of girls playing out of position as a result, and overall we did do better than I thought we might do dealing with the injuries.”
The Tigers defense would hold the Comets scoreless for nearly four minutes in the third quarter with Westville ending the period with a 32-16 lead.
Both teams had a chance to clear their benches in the fourth quarter with the final margin accounting for the largest lead of the game.
The Tigers had seven players score.
“We did do a nice job of having balanced scoring,” Chandler said. “We have been doing a better job of having more than just 1 or 2 players score most of the points and that makes us harder to defend. Once we got going after the first few minutes I thought we played pretty well.”
Hoffman and Lacey combined for 17 rebounds.
“We couldn’t match their physical play and ability to rebound,” Ford said. “We fell apart in the second half, but we got a lot of the younger plays a chance to get some minutes and that is important for the future.”
The Lady Tigers move to 9-14 and continue a streak of winning at least 1 game in every Vermilion County tournament, while the Comets fall to 5-14. Both teams return to action at the Palmer Arena on Monday with the Tigers facing the Hoopeston Area Cornjerkers at 5p.m. and the Comets taking on the Georgetown-Ridge Farm Buffaloes at 6:30 p.m.