By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
URBANA — Miami East girls basketball coach Bruce Vanover knew what his Vikings were up against in their season opener.
And after committing 28 turnovers, sending Olentangy — a Division I school — to the free throw line a whopping 43 times and a less-than-stellar night shooting from the field themselves, things seemed even more bleak.
“As many turnovers as we had in this game, for us to have the chance to get to overtime … that’s not going to happen a lot with that many turnovers,” he said. “It’s a wonder we even had a chance to be in the game.”
But not only were the Vikings in the game, they had a chance to win it late after Whitley Gross hit a game-tying shot with five seconds left in regulation to send the game to overtime. Miami East scored the first four points of the extra period and seemed to have control with two minutes to play, but Olentangy’s Liv Margolies quickly tied the score and the Braves, who had a dismal night from the free throw line, hit some clutch ones late to hand the Vikings a 44-40 defeat to kick off the season-opening Skeeter Classic tournament Friday at Urbana High School.
And even though Miami East (0-1) was very undersized compared to the D-I Braves, the Vikings didn’t back down.
“We’re not big, but we’re athletic and we’re scrappy,” Vanover said. “We can make up for a little bit of the height with the way we play. I was really proud of the girls battling back to get to overtime. The girls fight. We got down six early and kept hanging around, then we hit a couple shots late to get it to overtime.”
It was the first game of East’s star point guard Morgan Haney’s senior season. Haney, who recently committed to play D-I college at the University of Albany, led the Vikings with 14 points and added six rebounds and three blocked shots — but she had to contend with defenders nearly a foot taller than her, as well as multiple defenders, most of the game.
“They were sending two and three people at Morgan the entire game,” Vanover said. “One time, they triple-teamed her, and we still couldn’t get a shot and turned the ball over. Part of that is having younger players handling the ball. They’ve got to learn how to deal with pressure situations.”
Haney had a pair of chances to win the game in regulation, with open 3-point shots simply rattling out of the rim. But with five seconds left, she drew the attention of the defense and kicked to an open Whitley Gross, who sank a short jumped to tie the score at 35-35 and send the game to overtime.
Haney then hit a floater early in the overtime, and Camryn Miller — who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds — sank a pair of free throws to give the Vikings a four-point edge. East continued to hold control at 40-36 with roughly two minutes to go, but a pair of quick shots turned into layups by Margolies on fast breaks going the other way to even things up at 40-40 with 40 seconds to play.
“Having a young team, we’ve got to teach them that when we’re up four like that, we’re not in a hurry,” Vanover said. “Especially when you’re in the bonus and they’re behind. We just took some fast shots, and it put us in a hole. We’ve got to work on clock management as a team and making sure we’re working the ball around to get either a foul or a layup.
“We’d been shooting the ball well in scrimmages. Tonight? I don’t even want to know what we shot. In the first half, we rattled about 10 shots that hit everything but the bottom of the net.”
But the Braves (1-0) struggled shooting the ball even more. Before overtime, Olentangy was a paltry 7 for 36 from the free throw line — conversely, Miami East finished the game. 10 for 18 (56 percent). But the Braves got four clutch free throws in the final minute from Kennedie Daup, going 5 for 7 in the overtime period to finish the night 12 for 43 (28 percent) from the line.
“It’s a wonder we even had a chance to be in the game, giving up only 12 from the line on 43 attempts,” Vanover said. “They were the aggressors and we committed more fouls. And we shot 18 free throws, were 10 of 18. If we make the ones we missed … it doesn’t matter. It comes own to shooting.”
Daup hit a pair of free throws with 22.2 seconds on the clock to put Olentangy on top 42-40, and a pair of Viking turnovers led to two more free throws to close out the game.
Margolies finished with a game-high 21 points and added 22 rebounds to lead the Braves, Dani Breidelman added eight points and nine rebounds, Bridget Stafford had seven points and Daup and Meg Spohn each had four points and seven rebounds as Olentangy outrebounded East 46-43.
After Haney and Miller, the Vikings struggled to score the ball. Rori Hunley added four points, Paxton Hunley and Emily Adkins both had three points, Cadence Gross had two points and seven rebounds and Whitley Gross had two points and five rebounds.
“Shooting the ball too quick and too many turnovers — if we work those things out, we should be in really good shape,” Vanover said. “Still, I would’ve liked to have been on the other end of that one.”
Contact Josh Brown at email@example.com, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.