BY GREG FLINT
CAYUGA, Ind. —
North Vermillion used their press to force Southmont into enough turnovers that the host Falcons opened a 21-2 lead after one quarter en route to a 65-45 win over the Mounties.
It was the first game of the season for both teams and the play reflected that fact. Both teams had some ball handling issues and missed some open shots.
“It was a first game,” said North Vermillion coach Terry Naylor, “but it was one of our better first games. We did some different stuff and did it a little better than I expected.”
Southmont appeared to be trying to get the ball inside to six-foot Alexa McKinsey, but North Vermillion recognized that and worked on denying her the ball.
That forced the Mounties into trying to drive the lane where the quick hands of the Falcons game them problems.
Southmont got untracked a bit in the second quarter as they scored 10 points — eight by Cali Wetli — but saw their deficit grow to 22 as they trailed 34-12.
Things changed after halftime as the Mounties came out with a completely different attitude, becoming aggressive on both ends of the floor.
“I challenged them,” said Southmont coach Chloe Allen. “I told them they could quit, but that it was not what I wanted to see.”
Instead, what she saw in the second half was something she had never seen in practice.
“I saw the intensity that I wanted to see from them,” she said. “I had never seen it — didn’t know if they could do it, but it was great to see.”
Whether the first-half play of her team came from nerves or passivity – “probably a little of both” – Allen saw her team start to attack the basket on the offensive end and get in front of players on the defensive side.
This was an improvement, especially defensively as the team had gotten into foul trouble in the first half by reaching for the ball rather than getting in good defensive position.
The Falcons played in the second half like the veterans they are, absorbing the run by the Mounties and answering each run with one of their own to keep the margin at 24 after three quarters at 53-29.
The final period was much like the third, as Southmont would make a couple of baskets in a row followed by North Vermillion doing the same. The final score of 65-45 was as close as the visitors were able to achieve once they ended their first-quarter woes.
Mikayla Kinneer was the leading scorer for North Vermillion with 22 points, many of which were scored on fast break baskets. Taylor Turchi added 16, including three 3-pointers while Darby Martin chipped in with 10 points and led the team in rebounds with six.
Cali Wetli had 25 points for Southmont. Close to double figures were Alexa McKinsey with nine and Jess Chadd with eight.
Naylor summed up the night by saying he saw what he expected from his team.
“We looked good at times, but I don’t know how good we really are,” he explained. “I think if we shoot well — and that will be the key — we could win quite a few games this year.”
For Allen, it was a learning experience and what she learned, she said she liked.
“We found some leaders and some intensity,” she said. “We also saw what we need to work on.”
Asked about the latter, she replied, “The first thing we’re going to work on is our press break. We didn’t get someone in the middle and we got trapped too often. Still, I’m pleased with a lot of what I saw.”
Greg Flint is a freelance writer and photographer for the Commercial-News, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org