Evergreen rolls past Liberty Center in girls basketball sectional semifinal

By Joe Blystone - For the Expositor

HOLLAND – Eating too fast more than likely will give you heartburn. Driving too fast very well could earn you a ticket.

Playing too fast in a basketball game when you aren’t used to that pace? That will probably get you knocked out of the Division III sectional tournament.

Earlier in the season, when a flu-bug ridden Evergreen team played at Liberty Center in girls hoops, the Tigers owned the tempo in a 39-38 win.

This time with everyone healthy, Brittaney Cymbolin’s Vikings put their foot on the gas and used a 24-10 game ending run to blow past the Tigers, 59-44, to advance to Thursday’s sectional final at Springfield.

The Vikings will face a 19-3 Otsego team that also defeated them on opening night, 53-50.

“The three kids that were gone (in the loss to LC) definitely wanted redemption,” said Cymbolin. “It was really hard for them to look at me and go ‘coach I can’t play’. This meant a lot to those kids to come back and redeem themselves and get the one that counted.”

Early on Liberty Center held tight against the Vikes’ pressure defense and barrage of three-point shooting.

Four Viking three-balls, two each from Lexie Shipman and Hannah Herr, helped Evergreen take a 14-12 first quarter lead.

However the Tigers, working the ball from inside out, got an offensive rebound hoop from Jerica Hollenbaugh and a corner jumper from Emma Babcock to stay close at 16-15 with 5:24 left in the half.

Shipman’s third bomb from long range extended the Viking lead to 19-15, but Meghan Skeens answered at the other end to slice the lead to 19-18, then Sydni Altman put the Tigers up with a drive to the rim and Skeens hit again from beyond the arc, giving LC a 23-19 lead with 2:59 left.

It was then when Evergreen got a big shot from an unexpected source as Jamie VanLoocke hammered home a three-pointer to get Evergreen within a point. And after Alyssa Noe tied the game with a free throw, Herr’s 15 footer off the baseline regained a 25-23 halftime lead for the Vikes.

Noe’s score off a steal 17 seconds into the second half again extended Evergreen’s lead to four but again LC stayed in striking distance on another triple from Skeens, 3 for 3 from the foul line when Altman was fouled shooting a three, and Babcock’s three-point play with 2:38 left in the third to keep the Tigers within one at 35-34.

But the pace that was controlled through the first 20 minutes of the game began to get more hectic and the pressure started to wear on the Tigers.

Three late third quarter turnovers led to an Abi Borojevich three-pointer, a score from Noe directly off a turnover, and then a long range laser from deep on the left wing by the senior point guard to turn Evergreen’s one point lead into a 43-34 margin entering the fourth quarter.

“The funny thing is we just played eight games in about 15 days,” stated Cymbolin. “We knew we were going to be spotty with our defenses and throw different things at them. So we spent the week working on different things for what LC would throw at us and if we beat LC what Otsego would throw at us and be able to defend. We didn’t want to show LC what we were going to do and Otsego what we were going to do and the kids really stepped up tonight and I was really proud of them.”

The Tigers got within six at 44-38 with 5:28 left on Altman’s basket, but Herr answered back with a wide open triple at the 4:45 mark and VanLoocke scored off the offensive glass a minute later to boost the lead to double digits at 49-39.

Seven more Tiger turnovers in the fourth robbed LC of chances to get back into the game and Evergreen took advantage by knocking down 10 of 14 free throws in the last 2:47 when the Tigers were forced to foul to drive the Viking lead to 15.

In all Evergreen forced 19 turnovers, including 10 in the last 10 minutes of the game.

The Vikings, now 12-11 on the season, committed just eight.

Noe and Herr each had 15 points to pace Evergreen scorers while Shipman added 10 and Borojevich nine, including 6 for 6 from the free throw line.

“Anyone who doesn’t know our team like we do, doesn’t realize we have kids that can hit shots,” explained Cymbolin. “We have had different people come up big for us in different games and I just told them tonight I trust you. I trust you to take those shots.”

Skeens paced Liberty Center, who bows out of the tournament at 11-12, with 14.

By Joe Blystone

For the Expositor

Reach Joe Blystone at [email protected]

Reach Joe Blystone at [email protected]