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Squires start slow, fall on road to Vikings

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

HUNTINGTON – Huntington North girls’ basketball head coach Heidi Lawson had made note of her team’s struggles in closing games this season. Tuesday night was a big step forward for her side.

After seeing a 13-point halftime lead dwindled down to six points midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings used a 12-2 run to seal the game and earn a 50-37 win.

“(There was) one moment where Hollyn (Anderson) took a shot and she knew it and just to regroup, we took a timeout just to talk about it again,” Lawson said. “They did a nice job of running the clock out so we could have a good shot. I was proud of them for that, but we have to continue to keep doing that.”

The Vikings dominated much of the first half behind center Maddy Robrock, who scored 10 of her 12 points in the opening frame and helped the Vikings take an early 15-9 lead in the period.

“It's great that we could get her going,” Lawson said. “We still need to get that outside shot going, too. We have girls that can hit it, so once we can get Maddy going, then we can get those other girls shooting, too. I thought the girls did a nice job of feeding it to her at least the first quarter and second quarter also.”

Huntington North would use an 11-3 run in the second period to open up a 30-17 lead after holding the Squires to just four points in the frame.

However, turnabout was fair play on the night as Manchester, coming off an upset win over a ranked Northfield side on Saturday, fired out of the gates in the second half with an 11-3 run of their own to slice the lead to 33-28.

“We were ready to play then,” Manchester head coach Jacob Everett said of the difference in his team in the second half. “We decided that we can play under this bigger environment in this bigger game and we can play like we did against Northfield last Saturday. The girls decided they could step up, they could make plays offensively, they could make plays defensively and that was the difference.

“We started the game with a stop, forced a turnover, we scored, forced another turnover and just setting that tone early is what we were missing in the first half.”

Free throws from Reece Colclesser and a freebie and a basket for Rylee Williams sandwiched around the quarter break allowed the Vikings some breathing room as their double-digit lead was restored.

The Vikings came roaring back once more as buckets from Sydney Day and Emma West cut the lead back down to six points at 38-32.

Manchester would get no closer on the night as Rileigh Johnson started the hosts’ run with a three-pointer, her third of the night. Karmen Koch and Hollyn Anderson also had a say in the deciding spurt to close the game.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the Vikings, moving them to 4-5 on the season.

“It’s nice. I have to admit it’s nice,” Lawson said. “But we have a long road this week. We have three games and then we have a conference game the following Saturday. I think the girls are focused and they’re buying into it.”

Johnson tied for game-high honors with 13 points while Robrock added 12 points and seven rebounds. Koch and Anderson added eight apiece.

As a team, Huntington North shot 55.6 percent from the field and connected on three three-pointers, all from Johnson, on the evening.

Kennedy Fierstos finished with 13 points for the visitors while Emma West joined her in double figures with 10. Sydney Day added seven.

Manchester finished the night shooting 30.6 percent from the field, but hit on 41 percent of its attempts in the second half after going 6-of-27 (22.2 percent) in the first half.

For the Squires, the challenge for Everett and his team will be bringing the same intensity to each game that his side brought in their upset win over Northfield.

“It’s not a hurdle. It’s just a mindset,” he said. “And we talked about it in (the locker room) that every game has to matter to the extent that the Northfield game mattered to them. And it mattered. We just have to bring it. Every game has to (have) that much intensity like we’re playing against that kind of opponent. That it means that much regardless of what the name is on the jersey of the other girls.”

Manchester falls to 4-6 with the loss and will return to Three Rivers Conference play on Friday when they travel to Whitko. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:45 p.m.

Huntington North’s busy week sees them host New Haven on Friday before traveling to Marion on Saturday. Tip-off for both games is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.