In a non-league girls basketball season opener between two of the NWOAL pre-season favorites Friday night, Delta used an 18-8 fourth quarter to finally subdue a scrappy short-handed Swanton Bulldog team, 53-38.
“We finally played the way we had in the pre-season scrimmages,” said Panther coach Ryan Ripke. “It took about two and a half quarters but we finally played pretty decent.”
For one half, Ripke’s Panthers looked like Delta of last season as Maddie Mattimore and Abby Freeman combined for all 25 Panther points in the first half.
Swanton, playing without Haley Nelson, recovering for one more week from a soccer injury, and Bridget Harlett, serving a suspension from a soccer altercation, coach Eric Oakes found a pair of people off the bench that gave him a big boost in Aricka and Averie Lutz.
The freshmen twins hit a triple and five points each to counter Freeman’s 10 and Mattimore’s eight in the first to keep the Bulldogs close at 18-12.
Sidney Taylor’s triple and Cydney Chistensen’s roll to the rim at the 4:40 mark of the second gave the Bulldogs a 19-18 lead, but Mattimore scored five straight to regain a 23-19 lead for the Panthers.
Christensen’s score off the press got Swanton within a hoop.
Freeman countered with a right-to-left-to-right cross to the hoop to double that lead at the half.
“I told you before the game how much more balanced we were in pre-season and I felt like ‘oh man, he must think I have no clue what I’m talking about’ after we had just two people score in the first half,” said Ripke. “In the second half more people got involved and we looked more like I thought we would.”
Another Aricka Lutz three-ball got Swanton within 28-25 with 4:27 left in the third when Ripke got offense from another source.
Panther freshman Braelyn Wymer hammered a triple off an out-of-bounds play, then scored off a Bulldog turnover to give Delta a 33-25 lead.
Christensen got a three-point play and Averie Lutz hit a couple from the foul stripe to get Swanton back to one possession at 33-30 before Brooklyn Wymer curled to the rim for a score with less than a minute left in the quarter to boost Delta on top 35-30 heading into the fourth.
Mattimore and Aricka Lutz traded triples to start the quarter, then Jesse Giguere and Brooklyn Green each scored to counter Ally Hendricks’ three-ball to keep Delta up 42-36.
Then came a 10-0 Panther run in a two and a half minute span that put the game away.
Mattimore hit a three from the left corner, Freeman scored on a pump and go move, then off a Giguere steal and assist and Cassandra Lee’s long range bomb finshed the run that gave Delta a 52-36 lead with three minutes left.
Despite the loss, Oakes found a lot to be positive about in the opener.
“I think we found out how deep we could be tonight,” he said. “Being without Haley and Bridget Harlett we had to go deeper into our bench and kids stepped up. The Lutz girls hit some big shots for us, and Cydney Christensen played a really good game inside for us. Getting battle tested this early in a game like this with our freshmen will take us a long way as far as our depth. I was pretty happy with that aspect.”
Mattimore had 19 points and Freeman 17 for Delta, but scored just 11 between them in the second half as the rest of the Panthers accounted for 17.
Christensen had 12 and Aricka Lutz 11 for Swanton.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org