Reprinted with permission from
Spates, Warriorettes escape Pioneer defense, 43-38
Junior comes through in clutch for surging squad.
By CHAD DRURY
Ledger Sports Editor
FAIRFIELD Three days ago, Van Buren girls'
basketball coach Randy Smith
He found out the hard way.
"I knew it would be just like this," said Smith after Tuesday's 43-38 victory over the Pioneers, Van Buren's fourth consecutive win. "I'm glad we got the win, but we knew they would be a physical team."
Entry passes and dribble penetration by the Warriorettes were hard to come by. The Pioneers shut off most of the lane, with Jodi Dey working hard against Shelby Spates in the paint. The Maharishi School had given up just 37 points per game in their first six contests.
The Pioneers (3-4, 0-3) and Warriorettes (4-1, 2-0) played a grudge match as Van Buren stuck with its game plan and went to the only player the Pioneers didn't have an answer for Spates.
The junior scored a game-high 26 points, including six in a row in the game's final four minutes, to help the Warriorettes control the game and prevail. Van Buren was leading just 37-36 when Spates picked up the slack.
"That was our plan," Smith said. "We wanted to get the ball into her. But Maharishi School forced us to make long passes inside."
Pioneers coach Brendan Higgins said Van Buren played its best when it had to, but believed his team had a shot to defeat the reigning SEI Superconference West Division champions.
"I thought it would take a great effort to beat them, but our shots didn't fall when they had to," said Higgins, whose team scored just two points in the last six minutes. "Our defense kept us in it, when we were ahead and behind. Van Buren is a great team and they just executed. We didn't."
Taylor Ross provided the dazzling plays for the Pioneers. Ross pumped in 18 points to lead the Maharishi School, and consistently gave Van Buren headaches with lane penetration. Amellia Schuldt added 10 for the Pioneers.
"Ross was really the difference for them," Smith said. "Our press was not very good, and they got into the lane. Our biggest fear was a low-scoring game like the Pioneers play, but we came out on top."
The contest was very even through the first 3 1/2 quarters. Emily Humble's hoop gave the Warriorettes their first lead at 11-9 with 30 seconds left in the first quarter. The teams traded baskets for much of the second quarter when Ross scored off a steal with three minutes left for an 18-17 lead. Neither team led by more than three points in the first half, and they finished in a 20-all deadlock going into the locker room.
Just when it looked like Van Buren was going to make a run, the Pioneers answered. Kelly Yarnell buried a 3-pointer to give the Warriorettes a 29-26 lead, part of a 5-0 run. But the Pioneers came back with with a pair of baskets to cut the margin to 33-32 after three quarters.
Ross put the Pioneers up 36-35 early in the fourth quarter, but it would be the last lead the Maharishi School would have. Spates then went to work in the paint, burying turnaround jumpers to give Van Buren a 43-36 lead. The Pioneers ended the game with an Anna Shook basket, but it was Van Buren who emerged with something more.
"We knew it was very possible to get beaten by this team," Smith said. "Maharishi is a very well-coached team. They're going to beat some teams."
For Higgins, the game signaled another step in the right direction for the Pioneers.
"We're getting there," Higgins said. "We did some things well. We were patient on offense, but we forced things when we were behind. Taylor Ross is a clutch player. This team is getting more confident in each other."
0-0 0. Totals: 18-38 6-13 43.
Ross 9-25 0-0 18, Amellia Schuldt 4-12 0-0 10, Anna Shook 2-6 0-0 4, Anna
Tarnoff 1-8 0-1 2. Totals: 18-57 0-1 38.
Score by quarters
Van Buren 11 9 13 20 43
Maharishi 9 11 12 16 38
2, Yarnell. Records: Van Buren 4-1 (2-0), Maharishi 3-4 (0-3).