Delta took its first lead 3:17 into the opening quarter and never relinquished it from there, leading to a 41-33 win at home over Liberty Center in NWOAL girls basketball Thursday.
“It is very satisfying,” said Delta coach Ryan Ripke on his team’s win. “Especially the way we came out and played in that first half. We just played so well. I thought defensively and offensively, it was just a great first half.
“The second half, they are too good of a team to be shut down for an entire game. We lost number 22 (Meghan Skeens) a couple times, and she is a great three-point shooter. But I thought overall, it was a great effort by all the girls.”
With the score knotted at 4-4, Delta got a bucket off a steal by Maddie Mattimore, then a pair of deuces from Abby Freeman and Hayley Callahan to lead by six after the opening quarter.
“We got some wide open looks,” explained Ripke. “That first half, I felt like we probably left a few points on the board by missing some easy bunnies. But yeah, offensively I thought we were in a good rhythm for the most part in the game.”
The Panthers and Tigers traded buckets to begin the second before Delta proceeded to go on a 10-2 run.
After a Peyton Spieth jump shot for Liberty Center, Callahan notched a putback basket for Delta, and Freeman tacked on 1 of 2 from the foul line and a three-pointer to make it 18-8 with 3:23 left in the half. Mattimore would bury a three and Emily Clifton split a pair at the line to extend the Panther lead to 14.
The halftime score was 22-11 as Skeens nailed a three for LC with 22 seconds to go.
Delta’s defense held Liberty Center to just 37 percent (15 for 41) shooting from the floor, and although Skeens hit three treys, they were just 3 for 19 from behind the arc.
“We’ve got to put more pressure on the basketball,” said Ripke on the direction of his team’s defense in recent weeks. “We’ve got some pretty good one on one defenders, and so, we want to put pressure on the ball. And we feel like they can put pressure on the ball without fouling. We proved that tonight.”
LC got within nine on buckets from Skeens and Kenzie Detmer around a Mattimore drive and score in the early portion of the third, but Delta limited them to just four points over the final 4:32.
Clifton would score in the paint, then two free throws and a basket off a steal by Mattimore made it 30-15 at the 3:03 mark. Spieth answered with a basket off an out of bounds play, Erin Mazurowski scored for Delta, and Olivia Leatherman’s putback for LC got them within 32-19 after three.
Freeman’s triple at the 5:52 mark of the fourth kept the Panthers up 14, 38-24, but the Tigers made one final push. A three for Skeens 22 seconds later made it 38-27, then Jerica Hollenbaugh scored twice to put the difference at seven with still 2:43 to go.
However, the Tigers missed a pair of foul shots down the stretch and had just one field goal, a deuce from Spieth, giving Delta a very important league win.
Leading the Panthers was Mattimore with 16 points and Freeman who finished with 11. Skeens notched 15 for the Tigers.
Delta (10-6, 2-2 NWOAL) won the rebounding battle 31-24, and they also had 18 points off turnovers to just 10 from Liberty Center (10-7, 2-2).
Delta is at Evergreen Thursday and Lake on Saturday this week.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010