BY JIMMY HARRIS firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — The Schlarman Academy girls team held on and took advantage of a key stretch in the fourth quarter to defeat Bismarck-Henning 38-34 on Thursday in a battle of the top two teams in the Vermilion Valley Conference.
“I thought we played a good game and handled their pressure for most of the game but had about a four minute stretch in the fourth quarter that probably cost us the game,” Bismarck-Henning coach Mike Stephens said.
With the Hilltoppers holding on to a 36-34 lead with 10 seconds left, the Lady Blue Devils set up Brooke Walsh (20 points, 13 rebounds) the ball on the left wing.
Walsh got the ball, shook her defender and drove down the baseline to get an open look and put up a running lay-up that went in and out. Sierra Bell (20 points, four rebounds) pulled down the rebound in traffic to preserve the win as she is fouled quickly, and walked to other end of floor and ices the game by knocking down two free throws with two seconds left on the clock.
Bismarck-Henning led 26-21 going into the fourth quarter and had a lot of the momentum, but Schlarman picked up the pressure defense in the fourth quarter and that helped them get some easy buckets at the offensive end to seize the momentum.
“We rely on our defense to help us get baskets at the offensive end,” Schlarman coach Keith Peoples said. “I told them that our defense was the key to getting back in the game and that our offense would come around.”
The Lady Hilltoppers had a cold shooting first half by only making one field goal during that first 16 minutes. The Lady Blue Devils took advantage and led 16-10 going into the locker room.
Bismarck-Henning played a good defensive first half and kept the Lady Hilltoppers off the offensive boards.
“We knew we had to increase our defensive pressure in second half and I feel the team did that,” Janelle Marion (11 points 10 rebounds) of Schlarman said.
Bell kept the Lady Hilltoppers close with 6-for-8 shooting from the free-throw line in the first half.
“I think we played better in second half and it started with our defense,” Bell said.
Bismarck-Henning is 12-8 overall and (6-2) in conference play and Schlarman Academy is 11-7 overall and (5-1) in conference play.