Winning teams usually do not have one single focal point.
Evergreen got big second half shots from not one, but six different players, including five who tripled, to rally from a 10-point deficit to take down Swanton 59-48 Thursday at Evergreen in Northwest Ohio Athletic League girls basketball.
“Swanton-Evergreen is always a big game,” said Viking coach Brittaney Cymbolin. “The Swanton girls have a lot of heart and so do we. We talked about how the game would be a bunch of ups-and-downs and if we could get through those low spots, then we were going to come out on top.”
Frankie Nelson’s two late first quarter hoops inside, one of the “it slipped out of my hands going up and came down through the rim” variety, gave Swanton a 9-8 lead before Mady Peluso’s baseline drive regained a 10-9 Evergreen advantage at the break.
Averie Lutz put the Bulldogs back on the top with a triple at the 7:28 mark of the second and Swanton continued to add on from there.
Kara Truckor scored in transition, Lutz hit another from long range and Grace Oakes scored on an offensive rebound to cap a 10-2 run, putting the Bulldogs up 19-12 halfway through the second.
Peluso stuck one triple, and Kennedi Keifer came off the Viking bench and drilled another around an Oakes hoop to get Evergreen within 21-18.
However, a 7-2 Bulldog flurry in the last minute led by Lutz’ fast-break layup and an Oakes triple from the way outside the three-point line boosted Swanton back up 28-20 at the half.
“We went into the locker room and said, ‘this is one of the low spots’ we were talking about,” explained Cymbolin. “So the kids knew they had to get out of the hole they were in. They played with a lot more intensity, especially defensively.”
A Lutz set shot 27 ticks into the third made it a double-digit lead but it was about that time the Vikings’ eight-player rotation began to wear on the Bulldogs.
Swanton didn’t hit another field goal for over seven minutes and the Bulldogs were guilty of nine third quarter turnovers that led to a 14-2 Viking blast.
Peluso and Keifer again hit from outside the arc to get Evergreen back to a 30-27 deficit.
After Lutz got two for two from the line, Naomi Brand drilled another three-ball from the right wing, Abi Borojevich laced a floater in the key to knot the game at 32, and Kelsie Komisarek stuck a pull up jumper to give Evergreen a 34-32 lead with a minute left in the third.
Nelson’s basket inside tied the score at the end of the quarter, but Borojevich gave the Vikes the lead for good with a right corner three-pointer at the 6:40 checkpoint of the fourth and then it was the Vikings turn to extend.
Savannah VanOstrand became the fifth Viking to triple in the second half with six minutes to go to put the Vikings up four, 40-36.
Peluso’s delay dribble drive score, and then a dish to VanOstrand for a layup made it 44-40 with 4:09 to go.
“I think our rotation helped a lot, we looked fresh,” said Cymbolin. “I did tell them at halftime also that I never yell at anyone for shooting the basketball and you guys have to have confidence in yourselves to hit a shot. Our kids took it to heart. Five kids hitting a triple? Lot of kids hitting a big shot.”
The Vikings went delay and forced the Bulldogs to chase and foul.
Borojevich and Keifer went four for four to increase the lead to 48-40.
Evergreen had a chance to put the game away when VanOstrand went to the line for a pair after an intentional foul, and then Peluso for two on the ensuing possession, but could only cash 1 of 4 to give the Bulldogs a glimmer of life.
Lutz triple with 1:48 left brought the Bulldogs back to 49-45 but the Vikings didn’t miss out on their next chances at the stripe.
Keifer, Borojevich and Peluso went 8 for 10 down the stretch to put the game away.
The upstart Vikings who were once 2-7, and picked in the second division in the pre-season NWOAL polls, now share the top spot with league favorite Delta.
“We have really turned it around since Christmas,” said Cymbolin. “The effort the kids play with is impeccable. They are starting to become confident with themselves and realize we can be good as a team if we believe in ourselves. Honestly that is what is making the difference, the kids not only are starting to believe in themselves, but believe in each other as teammates.”
Lutz led all scorers with 21 but Peluso, Borojevich and Keifer countered that with 16, 15 and 13 respectively. Keifer’s output keyed a total of 16 Viking points off the bench.
Evergreen hosts the NWOAL Goliath, 12-1 Panthers, this Thursday.
Swanton also plays in the league that night, at home with Patrick Henry.
Reach Joe Blystone at email@example.com