Swanton girls basketball coach Eric Oakes knew he had a number of returning lettermen coming back from last season’s squad.
What he also found out was he could defend much better as his Bulldogs held Delta without a point the final 5:26 of the game to come back from a seven point deficit to record a 44-41 victory on opening night of the girls season Friday at home.
“I think we can be competitive just by the defense we play,” explained Oakes. “We’re going to struggle at times trying to score the ball but we’ll work on that aspect the rest of the year and hopefully get better. But defensively I really like our aggressiveness and I mean I really believe our girls showed that tonight. We put a lot of girls out there for a lot of minutes.”
How the Bulldogs harassed the Panthers was very apparent in the first quarter as Delta did not score a field goal until Darian Elendt’s turnaround jumper at the buzzer.
However, 6 of 8 free throw shooting along with eight Swanton turnovers kept Delta in contact, trailing only 10-8.
Abby Freeman’s long range triple drew Delta within 12-11 with 6:53 left in the half, and after Haley Nelson’s driving layup put Swanton up three, Maddie Mattimore knotted the score with a three-ball of her own.
Cydney Christensen’s left wing jumper regained a Bulldog lead but Hayley Callahan’s pair from the line re-tied the score at 16-16 before Freeman knocked down a second three of the quarter giving Delta a 19-16 lead.
Nelson’s jumper and a Sidney Taylor free throw again drew Swanton even but Mattimore drilled a three from the top of the key with 1:11 left in the half to give the Panther a 22-19 halftime lead.
Yet another Mattimore triple gave Delta its’ biggest lead at 27-19 57 seconds into the third quarter but again the Panthers went cold and Swanton battled back.
Nelson turned a steal into a score, then hit a three from the left side of the top to chop the Delta lead to 27-24.
Taylor’s bank shot triple sliced the lead to 29-28 with 2:39 left in the third before Mattimore’s basket with over a minute left in the quarter put the Panthers up 35-32 heading into the fourth.
Emily Clifton, Mary Miller and Elendt each scored inside for Delta around Ally Hendricks’ baseline jumper starting the fourth to again boost Delta up this time by seven at 41-34 with 5:26 to go.
Little did the Panthers know that would be their last score of the night.
“They did a really nice job defensively on Maddie,” said Panther coach Ryan Ripke. “Especially in the second half. But the game really didn’t have a flow to it, we got up eight right at the beginning of the third and they pulled right back and we went up again by seven starting the fourth. Thinking back we got some good looking shots with the girls we wanted shooting those shots they just didn’t fall. If a couple more of those fall maybe we get them to change their game plan defensively we just didn’t do it.”
While Delta went 0 for 7 coming down the stretch, Swanton ran off 10 straight.
Taylor Dohm went 2 for 2 from the foul line and Taylor got a scoop and score off a baseline drive to chop the Delta lead to 41-38.
Christensen’s transition hoop off the press got Swanton within one with 1:58 left and after a Panther miss, Nelson put Swanton up 42-41, hitting both ends of a one-and-one with 1:02 left.
Yet another Delta miss and a loose ball out-of-bounds gave Swanton possession with 12 seconds left and Oakes turned Taylor into Aaron Rodgers as she hit Nelson going long for a layup for the final margin.
“Those three all did a great job tonight,” said Oakes of Nelson, Taylor and Christensen. “We lean on those three to score obviously. Hopefully they can make up for losing a Kyleigh Ramlow (last year’s leading scorer at 16.7 ppg) and include what they produced. Our goal now is to find whoelse is going to be consistent.”
Swanton survived 20 turnovers by forcing Delta into 19 and 12 of 34 from the floor. The Bulldogs hit 16 of 40 field goals.
Nelson led all scorers with 19.
Freeman had 15 and Mattimore 14 for Delta, but both were held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Delta now plays Pettisville Tuesday while the Bulldogs host Lake.