By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
CASSTOWN — Coming into the season, the defending Cross County Conference champion Miami East girls basketball team knew being undersized in the post would be a weakness.
For the first time all season, an opponent was truly able to exploit that.
Tri-Village’s 6-foot-plus post tandem of Meghan and Maddie Downing outrebounded the Vikings as a team 38-20 — not a good sign with the Patriot defense holding the Vikings to only one first-quarter field goal — and Emma Printz hit four 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes to help Tri-Village basically wrap up this year’s CCC title in a 60-44 victory Tuesday night at Miami East.
“We just got totally outrebounded,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “We try not to let that happen, and we’ve kept most of the games close throughout the year. But tonight was not close.
“For us to play with teams, we have to rebound. And we got outrebounded tonight.”
The Downings both posted double-doubles and Printz have the Patriots three players in double figures scoring as Tri-Village (17-1, 10-0 CCC) showed why it is the No. 4 team in the state in the latest Division IV poll, beginning the game on a 13-0 run and never looking back. Meghan Downing led the Pats with 17 points and 22 rebounds, Maddie Downing added 16 points and 16 rebounds and Printz had 16 points as the Vikings were outrebounded 54-20 in total.
“A couple things: one, they’re huge. And two, I kept talking to the girls tonight about how we had to have ball pressure,” Vanover said. “The only way to battle that, to counter post players that tall, is to have ball pressure so they can’t make that pass. And we just were not doing the job we need to do as a team of putting pressure on the ball and not allowing those lobs down inside.
“But when one girls is 6-1 throwing to another girl who is 6-2, and you’ve got 5-7 in front of her, you’re only going to be able to put so much pressure up. They just put it over her head and did a nice job of taking advantage of that.”
And in that decisive first quarter where Miami East (13-5, 9-2 CCC) could not buy a bucket and Tri-Village grabbed every rebound, those problems were compounded by Printz’s shooting display.
After a bucket inside by Meghan Downing, a 3 by Lissa Siler and a putback by Maddie Downing gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead, Printz hit back-to-back 3s to make the score 13-0 five minutes in before the Vikings’ Morgan Haney hit a jumper after a steal to end the run. That proved to be East’s only field goal in the quarter, though, as Printz hit another 3, East’s Maria Staton hit a pair of free throws and Printz ended the quarter with yet another bomb to give Tri-Village a 19-4 lead after one.
“Printz got hot from behind the 3-point line,” Vanover said. “I swear one was eight feet behind the arc. Obviously, being down 19-4 after one and getting beat by 16 points — we lost the first quarter by 15 and the game by 16, so that was the game right there.”
In the second quarter, the Vikings found ways to fight back.
Miami East forced six Tri-Village turnovers in the second and began to hit its shots, with Camryn Miller finding Haney open for a back-door layup to cap off a 9-0 run that cut the lead to 19-13 midway through the quarter. Maddie Downing put home a fourth-chance putback to end the run, though, and eventually a jumper by East’s Rori Hunley made the halftime score 23-16 Tri-Village.
The Viking comeback continued early in the third as Staton hit a jumper on an in-bounds play to cut the lead to five at 25-20 … but that would be as close as East got. After a 3 by Haney cut the lead to 33-27, Tri-Village went on an 11-0 run, lobbing the ball in to the Downings consistently — and even getting a 3 from Meghan Downing — to take a 44-27 lead before a bucket by Haney made the score 44-29 after three. The lead in the fourth grew to as many as 20 at 59-39 late in the fourth before Haney scored the Vikings’ final five points of the game.
Haney led all scorers with 26 points, Miller added eight points, Staton had six and Hunley and Lauren Wright each had two for the Vikings, who won the turnover battle by forcing 15 and only committing six but simply could not overcome the Patriots’ dominance on the glass.
After the Downings and Printz, Siler added eight points for the Patriots and Andi Bietry scored three.
Tri-Village hosts Twin Valley South Thursday and travels to Arcanum Feb. 7, needing only to win out to wrap up the outright CCC title.
Miami East, meanwhile, will face yet another one of D-IV’s state-ranked teams on Thursday, traveling to Covington. The Vikings recently played top-ranked Fort Loramie on Saturday, falling in overtime.
“We’ve got to bounce back, come in, be prepared and get ready — because it doesn’t get any easier,” Vanover said. “We’ve got Covington Thursday and Tippecanoe Monday. We’ve just got to get ready for the next round. It’s what you have to do. And what I like about this schedule is that we hope, like always, these games get us ready for tournament time. We played the No. 1 team in the state, Tri-Village was No. 4, and they’re ranked there for a reason.”
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.