BY AARON PATTERSON
There’s nothing the Georgetown-Ridge Farm Buffaloes girls basketball team wants more than to defend their home court. It’s their territory, and having a visiting team come into their gym and show dominance is something they just don’t want to happen.
This season, though, it’s not just their home court they have been defending. The Buffaloes are off to one of their best starts in quite some time, and have built a team chemistry and camaraderie that has produced a winning formula that has been cracked only once this season — an eight-point loss to Shiloh in the Comet Classic.
The Salt Fork Storm attempted to become the second on Monday, but Georgetown-Ridge Farm trailed briefly once, and pulled out a 48-45 win to keep their impressive start rolling.
“I don’t think we’ve have a 7-1 start for many years,” Georgetown-Ridge Farm coach Michelle Brooks said. “It’s a big deal to us. These kids have learned a lot from the season before and carried it over to this year. We’re just playing one game at a time. It doesn’t matter what the record is. We’re just trying to beat the next guy.
“I don’t know that they are overly confident, but they believe in each other, so they are confident in their teammates and they play together,” Brooks continued. “I think that’s a big difference from the teams in the past. They’ve really jelled as a team.”
And it was that confidence and overall trust in each other that helped the Buffaloes (7-1 overall, 1-0 in the Vermilion Valley Conference) win their fourth game of the season by four points or less. They led the Storm (0-4, 0-1) by as many nine points late in the first half, but Salt Fork used a 7-0 run at the beginning of the third quarter to ultimately tie the game, and take its first lead at 30-28 one minute, 51 seconds into the second half. But the lead lasted only 1:26 before the Buffaloes pulled even and took their final lead at the 3:56 mark of the third on a rebound basket by Maya Green.
Through its first four games, Salt Fork’s inability to rebound at opportune times is what coach Jeff Carleton said has been the team’s downfall.
“We came out with a lot of energy,” Carleton said of the Storm’s third-quarter surge. “We got a couple quick steals and good things happened. We’ve lost four basketball games now because we don’t block out and rebound. We work on it everyday. Then we get in the game and we forget how to do it. That’s why we lost the game.”
Emilie McFadden, however, had a game-high 16 rebounds including 14 on the defensive glass. The Storm (0-4, 0-1) forced the Buffaloes into six turnovers in the final quarter with five coming on steals, but they converted those to only two points.
Salt Fork trailed 42-41 with three minutes remaining, but managed only four points the rest of the game while Georgetown-Ridge Farm got a basket from Green off a turnover, and made four crucial free throws down the stretch.
Storm sophomore Kalyn Learnard scored with one second remaining, and following a time out, stole the inbounds pass from the Buffaloes and put up a potential game-tying shot at the buzzer.
“I think that we kept our heads in it and didn’t get overconfident that we were going to keep the lead,” Buffaloes senior Callan Hall said. “With our intensity, we have that in practice and we brought it out from practice to the game. We had the intensity and we didn’t want to let it go. This is our home court and we didn’t want to lose it.”
Hall had a game-high four steals in addition to 12 points and 13 rebounds. Green scored 18 and had seven boards, and Brittany Hay (10 rebounds) and Kayla Wolpert finished with seven and nine points respectively.
McFadden scored nine for the Storm, Learnard finished with 10 points and six rebounds, Taylor Vice had eight points and 11 rebounds, and Toria Plotner had eight points and three steals.
While the Storm will look for their first win on Thursday when they host Chrisman in Catlin, the Buffaloes will play for their eighth win in Milford.
Georgetown-Ridge Farm defeated Milford 56-33 in the third place game of the Comet Classic on November 23.
“I think we have a lot of confidence,” Hall said. “The one loss that we had helped us learn, so now we have things that we know we need to work on. From this game, we’ll learn more. It helps us with our confidence knowing that we can beat teams, but we still need to make sure we don’t overlook anyone and get completely taken out.”