By Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
URBANA — How will Miami East girls basketball get along after the graduation of Morgan Haney? That’s the question surrounding the team entering the season.
On opening night, senior Camryn Miller provided an answer.
“Everybody says ‘oh, well, they don’t have Morgan anymore,” Miller said. “And she was a great part of our team, and we’ll miss her. But it’s time to move on.”
Miller, the only senior in the Vikings’ starting lineup, helped ease that pain in Friday night’s season opener, hitting a buzzer-beating layup to propel Miami East to a thrilling 39-38 victory over Springfield Catholic Central in the opening round of the Skeeter Classic tournament at Urbana High School.
In the end, Miami East did something it didn’t do last year with Haney — a 1,000-point career scorer and the team’s point guard and leader three of the last four years, currently playing Division I college basketball at the University at Albany — open with a 1-0 record.
“We’ve had people asking a lot, ‘hey, what’s it going to be like now that Morgan’s not there?’” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “Well, Morgan’s doing really well at Albany, and we’re moving on, too. We always say next woman up. I mean, there’s been great players graduate from here over the years: Jessie Roeth, Carrie Chivington, the Current girls (Ashley and Trina), Leah Dunivan. And we just try to keep going. We just want to be next person up.
“We love Morgan and we miss Morgan, but Morgan’s on to new things, and so are we.”
Those new things for the Vikings began with a quality team in the Fighting Irish (0-1).
“That team returned almost everybody from their team that won 17 games last year,” Vanover said. “We knew they were going to be good, and we knew it’d be this kind of game. We told the girls that it was going to be a 50-50 game and that they’d have to battle. And I’m really proud.”
And in the end of a back-and-forth game, it all came down to one series.
After Mallory Mullen — who led all scorers with 15 points and added five rebounds for the Irish — put Catholic Central up 38-37 with 40.1 seconds to play, Miami East looked to answer on its own end. But Miller missed an open look at a 3-pointer, and the Irish got the rebound and drew a foul with 10.9 seconds on the clock. And with Catholic Central 14 for 26 at that point, it seemed like it would get a chance to seal the game.
Miller, though, remained focused.
“We’ve got to go and execute the next play,” Miller said when asked what she was thinking after the missed 3.
As luck would have it, the correct person for the Vikings was the one that got the rebound, as it was not Mullen or Abbigail Peterson — who was 7 for 8 from the line at that point. Instead, it was Lizzie Bruce, who hadn’t taken a free throw attempt to that point.
“We didn’t want to foul Peterson, and it couldn’t have worked out any better,” Vanover said. “She hadn’t shot any free throws in the game, so it just worked out for us that way.”
Bruce missed the first one, and then her coach called a timeout. That allowed the Vikings to set up a play in case of a miss — and everything went just the way they drew it up. Bruce missed the second free throw, and Cadence Gross — who finished with nine points and a game-high 14 rebounds — grabbed the board and got an outlet pass out to Rori Hunley, who brought it up the floor and dished to Miller in the corner.
Miller, seeing an opening, drove the baseline and hit a reverse layup under the basket to give East a one-point lead as time expired.
“It was indescribable,” Miller said. “We run that play all the time in practice. And (in the timeout), we said specifically for Cadence to get that rebound — because she’s a great rebounder.She’s insane. And she did, and Rori got it up the sideline, and I was supposed to look in the post at the bottom. And I did, and no one was there, so I just said let’s go.
“I was pretty much in a trance. I had no idea what was going on until I looked at the clock and it was over.”
Miller finished with 10 points and six rebounds, while Hunley added a team-high 12 points, with both hitting two 3s in the game. Megan McDowell added three points and four rebounds, Paxton Hunley had three points and two assists and Kayly Fetters had two points and five rebounds as the Vikings won the rebounding battle 38-29 and the turnover battle 18-14, coming back from a 17-12 halftime deficit in the process in a game that featured two ties and seven lead changes.
Peterson finished with nine points for the Irish, Serenity Castle had four points and four rebounds, Jenna Skeens had four points and six rebounds and Bruce and Meghan Foster each had two points.
For the Vikings, it was an important first step, particularly without Haney. But it’s just the beginning, too — with the win, Miami East earned a shot at the Skeeter Classic championship, taking on Mechanicsburg at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Indians defeated tournament host Urbana in the early game.
“I know we’ll be okay this season. I mean, we’re young, but we practice hard,” Miller said.
“We started two sophomores, two juniors and a senior,” Vanover said. “We’ll have some growing pains. And we’ll have another one like this tomorrow. Mechanicsburg is good, and we’re going to have to battle to beat them. And it’s just going to be a lot of fun to start the season this way.
“Remember last season, we started with Olentangy and lost to them in overtime. So it was nice to be on the other end tonight.”
Contact Troy Daily News Sports Editor Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.
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