For Delta girls basketball coach Ryan Ripke, it must have felt like he and his Panthers have been on death row or riding out the storm on Noah’s Arc the last few weeks.
Almost on a nightly basis, the Panthers faced a triangle-and-two defense to slow down Delta’s high scoring guard tandem of Abby Freeman and Maddie Mattimore during a stretch where they dropped four of five games.
Then suddenly a reprieve came from the warden.
After 40 days and 40 nights of downpour, the sun broke through.
Bryan came out in a straight man-to-man defense, and Delta smoked it on their way to a 50-29 home win over the Golden Bears.
“We needed this win,” Ripke said. “I just told the girls in the locker room January and February we’ve just been running the gauntlet, it’s been one quality opponent after another.”
Delta doubled up the Golden Bears after a quarter, thanks to seven points from Mattimore, including three on a long bomb after a steal with nine seconds left to put the Panthers up 12-6.
That lead grew to 18-8 on Freeman’s baseline drive, a steal and score from Mattimore, and Mary Miller’s eight footer before the Golden Bears mounted a surge.
Baylee Krupp’s drive and Allye Minor’s fast break bucket chopped the lead to 18-12 and Bryan had a chance to chop into the Panther advantage even more with a stop.
Bryan got the stop they needed when the Panthers misfired, then they missed on a putback.
But, Emily Clifton made the play of the half, ripping away the rebound out of a Golden Bear players’ hands and scored on the third chance.
Instead of the Bears having a chance to slice the lead to four or three, the Panthers went back up 20-12 with 2:50 to go and Mattimore took it the rest of the way. First she hit from the inside, then she buried a long triple on a pass from Clifton to give the Panthers a 25-12 halftime lead.
“It was like a breath of fresh air,” Ripke said of Bryan coming out in the man defense. “There isn’t much you can do with a triangle-and-two except hope your girls can get open or the other three get hot and help you out. So it was kind of nice to see (man-to-man).”
Bryan made a run early in the third, getting the lead down to eight at 27-19 on Kayla Arnold’s transition hoop.
Hayley Callahan and Delaney Miley traded buckets, then Freeman and Arnold did the same with three-balls before the Panthers rattled off an 11-0 run to finish the quarter.
Freeman scored on a high-low from Callahan, Mattimore hit a step back jumper off a drive, Freeman got an and-one on a breakaway and scored another solo after a Mattimore steal. Mattimore finished the quarter hitting a pair from the line to make it 43-24 heading into the fourth.
In fact, the duo of Mattimore and Freeman not only scored every point in that third quarter burst, they scored the last 21 Delta points to carry the Panthers home.
“I didn’t like the way we started the third quarter,” Ripke explained. “They were more aggressive and got to the line a couple times. That’s why I called the quick timeout because we had to come out with a little more fire than what we did and we finished the quarter pretty well.”
For the game, Mattimore had 21 points and Freeman 18 to lead the Panthers.
Kennedy Lamberson had 12 for the Golden Bears who went without a field goal the last 12:44 of the game, and shot just 10 for 40 on the night with 20 turnovers.
Delta (12-8, 3-3 NWOAL) was 21 for 49 for 43 percent and was guilty of 14 miscues. The Panthers then defeated Holgate at home on Saturday, 59-37.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org