HOLLAND – When a team loses one of their leaders on the floor during tournament time it’s always a crushing blow.
Whether that team crumbles and fades or steps up and bonds is another thing.
Evergreen lost their junior blur of a point guard Alyssa Noe to an ACL injury in the first round sectional match-up against Gibsonburg, but got a big time performance from Kaela Fauble and used a 13-0 third quarter blast to turn back a defiant Swanton team, 54-46, to advance to the Division III district tournament for the seventh time in nine years under Viking mentor John Langenderfer.
“Obviously losing Alyssa Noe it’s different. They pressed us and we struggled with it a little bit,” said Langenderfer on the win over Swanton. “And Kaela Fauble has a career game for us, we were kind of playing goofy helter skelter defense on them and she was in the middle and clogged up everything in there.”
How both teams reached the final was an entirely different story. The Vikings fought off a horrible first quarter and a half to dispatch Gibsonburg 54-18, while Swanton got a last second free throw from Sidney Taylor to force overtime and go on to beat Woodmore 53-50.
Evergreen struggled through their worst offensive 13 minutes of basketball against Gibsonburg, going 4 for their first 27 from the floor, losing Alyssa Noe in the process when she crashed to the floor during a drive as the Vikes led just 10-7.
Eden Eisel sparked a late 10-0 run with a radar range three-ball and a transition basket from Rachael Noe before Hannah Herr scored on a fastbreak over the top pass from Mossing to give the Vikings some distance at 20-7 at the break.
That 10-0 turned into 26-0 as the harassing Viking defense caused 10 third quarter Golden Bear turnovers as the Vikings held Gibsonburg scoreless for 12 minutes to open up a 36-7 lead.
Eisel scored seven during the third quarter burst while Rachael Noe curled to the hoop left to right for a score and Mossing powered in a bucket from down low.
Mossing ended the third with a fastbreak basket from Herr before nailing a long three in the last 9.2 seconds that gave Evergreen a 41-11 lead they coasted home with.
“The kids I think tried to make up for Alyssa all at once,” said Langenderfer. “But I thought our defense did a really nice job matching up and obviously they were a little undermanned against our quickness.”
In all Evergreen forced 35 Golden Bear miscues. Eisel’s 16 and Mossing’s 15 led the Vikings.
In the nightcap, Bulldog senior Kyleigh Ramlow hit 15 of 16 from the foul line and scored 30 points, including 6 for 6 in overtime to finally put away Woodmore.
“This is a big boost for us,” said Swanton coach Eric Oakes. “We knew they were going to come after us, they’re a quick team. We know they beat Ottawa Hills earlier in the year, for our girls this was really special for us.”
Woodmore used three straight Jordan Grzegorczyk baskets, including one at the first half horn to take a 39-26 lead into the locker room.
That lead held at the end of the third quarter on Kaitlyn Gephart’s drive with one tick left.
However, Ramlow accounted for every Swanton point during an 8-0 spurt to begin the fourth to bring the Bulldogs back.
After going 3 for 4 from the foul stripe, the senior guard found Taylor for a layup, then buried an NBA range three to give the Bulloogs a five point lead.
Ramlow’s pair from the line at the 3:53 mark kept that lead status quo at 44-39, but Woodmore scrapped back.
Gephart’s three-ball cut the lead to 44-42 and Lily Rothert scored on a steal that turned into a three-point play to regain the lead for the Wildcats at 45-44 with 53.2 left.
Ramlow spun in the key and forced in a bank shot 12 seconds later to regain the lead for the Bulldogs but Rothert countered with her own drive with 25 seconds left, putting the Cats up 47-46.
After a Ramlow miss, Kae Barbee could’ve extended the Woodmore lead from the line but misfired. Ramlow angled downcourt but her desperation chuck went off mark.
However, Taylor scraped up the loose ball in the key and on her heave at the horn a whistle mixed in with the sound of the buzzer signifying a Wildcat foul.
The 5’8” sophomore hit the first free toss to give Swanton new life and force overtime.
Grzegorczyk’s baseline jumper gave Woodmore a 49-48 lead with 2:31 left but Ramlow weaved in the key three straight times, drawing three fouls and cashing in six straight to put the Wildcats to sleep.
Ramlow’s heroics continued three days later as her nine first quarter points kept Swanton within 14-11 at the break against the Vikings in the sectional title game.
Her long step back three at 6:33 of the second gave her 14 points and pulled Swanton into a 16-16 tie.
Mossing regained a Viking lead with a baseline jumper but Karah Kohlman got inside to tie things up at 18, before Haley Nelson’s jumper from the side of the key gave Swanton their first lead at the 4:10 mark of the half, 20-18.
Fauble hit a pair from the foul line to tie the score again, but Kohlman put the Bulldogs on top 23-20 with a three-point play.
Evergreen bounced back on a pair of Mossing free throws, then Mossing’s layup off Becca Jankowiak’s assist and Hannah Herr’s drive put them up 26-23, but Cydney Christensen picked up a loose ball and scored just before the half to slice the Viking lead to 26-25.
Swanton regained the lead one last time when Claire Leidigh scored on a back door play 1:15 into the second half to make it 29-28 Bulldogs.
From their came the key 13-0 salvo that put Evergreen in control.
“The 13-0 run our senior Haili Mossing took over when we needed it,” explained Langenderfer. “She hit back-to-back threes there and we kind of opened it up and that was the difference in the game.”
Fauble scored on an offensive rebound to give the Vikings a lead they never relinquished. Then, within 20 seconds of each other, Mossing turned a pair of Bulldog turnovers into a pair of triples to bump the Evergreen lead to 36-29.
Rachael Noe darted into the key after a steal and found Fauble for a layup that turned into a three-point play and Eisel scored off her own miss to give Evergreen a 41-29 advantage at the 3:21 mark.
“We threw a couple passes away and Mossing hit a couple three-pointers there that opened it up,” said Oakes. “They hit some shots and we didn’t.”
“It was very critical because we were trying to stay up,” said Mossing. “We were trying to keep everyone’s energy going.”
Ramlow and Nelson scored off loose balls and Ramlow hit one last basket, a three-ball, with 7:34 to go in the game to get the Bulldogs within 41-36.
However, that proved to be her last hoop of the night as the Viking defense limited her catches and clean looks the rest of the night.
Eisel’s score on a drive and her long distance three along with Mossing’s score off the offensive glass put the Vikings ahead 49-40 and Evergreen hit enough of 14 fourth quarter free throws to put the game away.
“Give Swanton a lot of credit,” said Langenderfer. “That isn’t the same Swanton team we played twice during the year.”
“I’m so proud of our kids and the way they played,” said Oakes.
Mossing matched Ramlow for game honors with 19. Mossing got help from Eisel who had 15 and especially Fauble who had 10 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
The Vikings (21-2) advance to the Lake District where they play Genoa Thursday night, while Archbold plays Otsego in the other matchup.
Swanton finishes the season at 7-17.
Joe Blystone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org