Vikettes basketball came into Tuesday’s opener with not even so much as a scrimmage under their belt, but left with a hard-earned win over Maquoketa 62-57 to open the season.
“It was our first time on a court against somebody that’s not us,” coach Rich Haisman said. “You could tell in that first quarter we were shaky and didn’t adjust as quickly as I would have liked. Maquoketa had played a couple of scrimmages. They are a fantastic team and cannot give them enough credit for how they played against us.”
A slow start by the Vikettes allowed the host Cardinals and their three-point shooting to double up 20-10 after the first quarter, with V-S mainly finding success on the free throw line. The Vikettes continued to drive to the basket and get fouled, putting Maquoketa in trouble late in the second quarter. Back to back threes by sophomore Abby Davis put V-S in striking distance. Free throws by senior Kayla Griffith put the Vikettes within two at halftime, down 33-31.
“We started anticipating their ball movement, seeing openings to drive and started attacking weak spots,” Haisman said. “It became a team effort getting the ball to the open girl. The big key for us was being able to play nine girls and get up and down the court at a high tempo while also pressuring [Maquoketa]. Those extra possessions we got off steals were desperately needed that first half.”
While the Vikettes were not firing on all cylinders even after the break, ball movement was notably improved and senior Lucy Howes-Vonstein was able to quickly tie the game up. From there on out, it was a one or two possession game the rest of the night. Sophomore Brylee Bruce came out with two big plays, including the final shot of the third quarter and the shot that helped put the Vikettes up 53-51. Free throws in the final quarter were key for V-S as they held on to a delicate lead. Griffith’s hustle on the boards in the final seconds allowed Bruce and sophomore Alyssa Griffith to close the game out on the line.
“This is a group of extremely intelligent, talented young ladies,” Haisman said. “They played their absolute hearts out and encouraged each other down the stretch. There was a play that Aza Swayzer busted her tail back on defense to get the block on what should have been an easy layup for Maquoketa. The ball goes off of them and we get the ball. That was an insanely athletic play by Aza.”
Alyssa Griffith led a balanced scoring effort with 12 points, followed by Bruce and Howes-Vonstein with nine points, Griffith and Davis with eight points each. As a team, the Vikettes shot 13 of 21 on their free throws, with Kayla Griffith hitting six of eight.
“Kayla and Alyssa are just such monster athletes,” Haisman said. “They just get up vertically and they go after the ball. Those rebounds they fought for were huge for us. We knew rebounding would be one of the keys in this game. We got on the glass pretty well and applied pressure to their offense. Overall, we want to see everything improve by our next game, but our press is one step away from making steals we missed tonight. Those are steals we get down the road.”
The Vikettes will enjoy thanksgiving break before continuing on the road at Marion on Tuesday, at Union on Thursday and their home opener against West Delaware on Friday.