By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
WAYLAND ? It was a battle of Warriors on Tuesday night in Wayland as WACO hosted Van Buren in a SIESC South Division double-header.
After a couple of back-and-forth contests, it was Van Buren that wound up on top. The Warriors used a fast start in the girls? game to pick up a 46-30 win. The VB boys? team staged a fourth-quarter comeback to complete the sweep, 59-52.
The girls? teams were up first, and Van Buren was able to set the tone early with a big first quarter. The Warriors used a seven-point first quarter from Isabel Manning to take a 17-8 lead after one period.
Van Buren held the lead throughout the second quarter, but a couple of outside shots from Kiana Miller and Kristen Conley helped WACO cut the advantage to seven points. Van Buren led 25-18 with Manning and Hannah Hudson tallying seven first-half points each.
WACO hit a cold stretch in the third quarter. They were able to get a few looks on Van Buren?s zone defense, but they couldn?t hit any outside shots in the final two periods.
On the other side of the coin, Van Buren hit four threes in the second half, two by Manning, and were able to run away. VB led 38-20 after the third period and held on for a 46-30 win.
Manning finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and five steals to lead Van Buren. Taryn Scheuermann added 12 points and eight blocks to give the Warriors two double-digit scorers. Hudson finished with seven. Madison Bartholomew scored six points and dished out eight assists. Salena Sayre had four, and Chloe Davidson had three.
After the game, Van Buren head coach Mazz Zeitler credited the WACO defense for keeping the game tight.
?We missed a lot of bunnies, but partially that is (because) they played really good defense,? Zeitler said. ?Isabel hit a few, Maddie hit a couple. They shot OK, but I?d like to shoot a little better than that.?
WACO was led by Aubrie Garnsey, who finished with 10 points. Miller finished with six. Clara Schmitz scored five. Conley had three, and the trio of Ashleigh Hallett, Laney Graber and Nadiyah Brown had two apiece.
?We got good looks, we just couldn?t get them to drop,? said WACO coach Shannon Rugg. ?Part of that is, their defense was just good enough to frustrate us a little bit. We just couldn?t put the ball in the hole.?
The two teams battled throughout the first half, but it was WACO who came out with the first-half lead. The Warriors used a 10-point half from Conner Eichelberger to take a 29-21 lead at halftime.
Van Buren began to chip away at the lead in the third quarter. VB cut the WACO lead to 39-36 to end the third quarter, and eventually tied the game 41-41 on a Brycen Starnes free throw with 5:20 remaining.
Jaden Gerig hit a layup shortly afterwards, and Van Buren began to pull away. Van Buren stretched their lead to 51-43 with under three minutes remaining, but WACO had one last run in them.
Colton Horak stole a pass and found Calvin Battle for an open three. Then, off another WACO steal, Nik Coble layed the ball up to cut the advantage to 51-48.
Van Buren hit their free throws down the stretch, however, especially Caleb Johnson, who went 6-8 down the stretch. On the other side, WACO went 0-7 in the second half, which ended their chances at a comeback.
After the game, Van Buren coach Fred Parsons credited the team?s defensive strategy. The Warriors went in and out of their full court press all night, but the pressure forced WACO to miss a handful of quick shots in the second half.
?We changed our defense at the half,? Parsons said, noting the team dropping into a man-to-man look. ?We didn?t take the ball away from them very much, but when you press, you change the way the teams play half court...(WACO) They hurried some of their shots, and they missed some of their free throws down the stretch. We were fortunate to win, there is no doubt about that.?
Gerig finished with 20 points to lead Van Buren. Johnson had 14 and Starnes scored 13 to give the Warriors three double-digit scorers. Jacob Plecker scored eight points in the win. Greg Wenke had three, and Tony Davidson finished with one.
WACO was led by Calvin Battle, who scored 15 points. Coble had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, and Eichelberger finished with 10 points. Horak had six points and four steals. Drew Kissell finished with five points and six assists. Beau Beckler had four points and Jacob Fried finished with two.
?The big difference is they made their free throws and we didn?t,? said WACO coach Paul Kissell. ?Their kids stepped up and hit their shots (and) we were 0 for the last seven free throws, and missed three front ends. That was really the difference in the game.?