In what their coach called their best game of the season, the Delta girls basketball team won its fourth straight game Thursday, doubling up on Swanton on its home court, 67-33.
The Panther full-court pressure seemed to rattle the Bulldogs from the outset, forcing early turnovers that helped Delta jump out to a quick 10-0 lead.
Sophomore Cydney Christensen finally broke Swanton’s scoring drought with a free throw about halfway through the first quarter. All of the Bulldog first-quarter points came at the charity stripe.
“We wanted to get off to a fast start and we did exactly that and I think that was a huge key,” said Delta head coach Ryan Ripke. “We told the girls that these first two or three minutes are key and they were for us.”
Delta (9-4, 3-1 NWOAL) kept substituting liberally throughout the opening quarter, keeping fresh bodies on the floor to turn up aggressive full-court pressure. Every Swanton shot was hotly contested and the Bulldogs were usually one-and-done on the offensive end.
The Panthers scored most of their first quarter points in transition, including a buzzer-beating jumper by senior Jessi Davis to stake Delta to a 16-5 lead.
Swanton started a full-court press in hopes to slow down Delta, and it seemed to work during the opening minutes of the second quarter. Bulldog senior Kyleigh Ramlow finally scored her team’s first field goal with 5:03 left in the first half on a short jumper.
Sophomore Maddie Mattimore answered with a three-pointer, then her older sister Morgan scored five straight points to stake Delta to a 27-8 lead. Junior Darian Elendt followed with a layup for the Panther’s second 10-0 run of the first half.
Ramlow scored five straight points following that run. She was her team’s entire offense in the second quarter with eight points total.
Delta then played for the last shot of the half as senior Morgan Mattimore watched her shot roll around the rim, hit the backboard, then drop through for a 31-13 Panther lead at halftime. The shot almost served as a microcosm of how the game was going at that point for both teams.
Morgan Mattimore had 16 first-half points, accounting for more than half of her team’s offense. Ramlow had ten of Swanton’s 13 first-half total.
Delta kept up the defensive pressure to open the second half, hoping to put the game away.
Morgan Mattimore scored all seven of her third quarter points in quick succession, following her trey with a driving layup. Mattimore then found senior Jenni Davis cutting to the basket for an easy layup. Davis was fouled and hit the free throw for a three-point play. Mattimore then shot an off-balance one-hander, hitting the floor hard after making the basket.
That series staked Delta to a 47-19 lead at the 2:30 mark.
The Panthers continued to play aggressive defense against Ramlow, holding her scoreless in the third quarter and allowing Delta to put in mostly reserves to end the stanza.
But Swanton quickly scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter on consecutive layups by Haley Nelson and Ramlow, who then made a long three-pointer after a Panther miss.
With its lead cut to 51-29, Delta’s coach called a time out for what he later called “a refocus.” The Panther starters went back into the game to regain the game’s momentum.
Sophomore Maddie Mattimore hit back-to-back triples to push the lead back out to 28 points. She scored 14 points for the game, including four treys.
Up 61-33 with 2:47 left, Delta’s coach pulled his starters and cleared the bench.
Morgan Mattimore led all scorers with 27 points on a combination of driving layups and long three-pointers. Ramlow led Swanton (3-6, 1-4 NWOAL) with 15 points.
“It felt good. We kept the momentum going, our defense kept the pressure going and they just couldn’t handle it,” Morgan Mattimore said after the game. “We’re definitely on our high as a team, but definitely not peaked yet.”
“I think we took Kyleigh Ramlow out of her game tonight—and that was the key, because she’s a heck of a player,” said Ripke. “She’s the kind of player that, no matter who they’re playing, they have a chance to win because they have Kyleigh Ramlow. She had to work for all 15 of those points. She and Morgan are very similar players. They’re going to get their points. It’s just how hard are you going to make them work to get those points.”
On one particular play in the first half, Ramlow faced a double-team as she dribbled up the sideline to get the ball over half court. The trap pressure finally forced her to dribble the ball out of bounds for a turnover.
“We haven’t played very consistently. We got out to a pretty sizable lead against Anthony Wayne the other night, then let them back in the game and eventually they took the lead before we could put it away,” said Ripke. “We just haven’t played consistently within the game, quarter to quarter we haven’t been consistent. Tonight, I thought we were.”
The important league win also kept the Panthers within a game of NWOAL leader Evergreen, who will host Swanton next week in a league contest. Delta will get quite a test next week when the Panthers play Stryker today, then head to Bryan Thursday for its next NWOAL game.
“We always talk about the roller coaster of the season and right now I hope we’re on the way up. I hope we haven’t peaked and I hope we just keep getting better,” said Ripke. “That’s what we keep talking about every game—win or lose, just keep getting better.”
Swanton travels to Pettisville tonight.
Kevin Milliken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org