Lady Vikes squeak past New Haven in sectional play

Lady Vikes squeak past New Haven in sectional play
Posted on 02/03/2021
Taylor Double fights for a shot during Huntington North's 31–29 sectional victory over New HavenSurvive and advance. That is exactly what the Huntington North girls basketball team did on Tuesday night, fending off an upset bid from New Haven in the Columbia City Sectional Quarterfinals with a narrow 31–29 victory. The triumph was the first postseason win for the Lady Vikes since 2017.

Reece Colclesser got Huntington North off to a quick start, draining a three-pointer on the first possession of the game, but New Haven would roar ahead with nine consecutive points for a 9–3 advantage. Colclesser would stop the bleeding with around two minutes left in the opening frame, but the Bulldogs held a 9–5 lead following the first quarter of play.

The Lady Vikes took over early in the second stanza, finding their legs offensively with an 8–3 stretch to start the period before posting a 7–0 streak to close the first half, highlighted by Leah Campbell finding Grace Gross open under the basket for an easy layup at the buzzer. The outburst helped Huntington North outscore New Haven 17–7 in the quarter to carry a 22–16 advantage into the locker room.

The Bulldogs scored the first four points of the third quarter to narrow the gap to just two points, while the Lady Vikes could not replicate their offensive success in the period. Grace Sell finally broke the drought for Huntington North with around two minutes left in the quarter before a Taylor Double three ball pushed the margin to seven points at 27–20 with 1:29 left in the stanza.

However, New Haven got the last laughs of the frame by scoring the final four points in the period, capped by rushing the length of the court for a buzzer-beating layup to give the Bulldogs life at 27–24 with one quarter remaining.

New Haven continued its push early in the fourth quarter, pulling even with the Lady Vikes at 27–27 following a successful and-one conversion. The teams traded baskets to push the score to 29–29 with 2:46 to play, but Sell would again put Huntington North on top at 31–29 with a well-earned layup with just over a minute remaining after a lengthy Lady Vikes possession.

The Bulldogs failed to capitalize on an opportunity of their own in the final minute, and were unable to get the ball back as time wound down, with the Lady Vikes avoiding New Haven foul attempts to salt away a nail-biting 31–29 outcome.

“You gotta find a way (to win),” said Huntington North head coach Matt Hinds after the victory. “Credit to our kids for doing that. This is a program that hasn’t advanced in the past your years, and I think sometimes it’s easy when it gets toward the end and it’s a tie ball game and whether you’re on offense or defense, you can kind of tell yourself, ‘Hey, let’s protect this and hang onto it,’ and I thought we went after it.”

Sell paced Huntington North with nine points, while Double finished with eight to go along with a team-leading four rebounds and three assists.

Colclesser potted seven points, while Campbell and Gross rounded out the scoring effort for the Lady Vikes with five and two points, respectively.

Avarcia Nard led all scorers in the game with 13 points in the losing effort for New Haven.

Despite not playing their best basketball, Hinds feels the triumph can help fuel the Lady Vikes heading into their next outing.

“I think we were a little unsettled tonight,” Hinds said. “The hunger was there, the want to win was there, the focus was there, (but) we were just off. Things weren’t clicking tonight. The fact that we had a game like that and to still be able to come out on top, I think that really says a lot about our team. I think that builds a lot of confidence. We’ve done pretty well with close games all year long, so we feel really confident that if we’re in a close game, that we’re going to come out on top.”

The victory pushed Huntington North onto the next round of the Columbia City Sectional, where the Lady Vikes will face South Side in the semifinals on Friday. The Archers have been Huntington North’s Achilles’ heel in recent years, ousting the Vikings in four of the last five seasons, including each of the last three years.

The Lady Vikings enter the semifinal matchup sporting a 15–7 record, while South Side kicks off its postseason march owning an 11–5 mark after receiving a quarterfinals bye. The teams last battled on Feb. 4, 2020, with the Archers claiming a 45–31 win in sectional quarterfinal action.

Hinds noted his group needs to do a better job of blocking out and taking away the lane in order to have success against South Side.

Opening tip for Friday’s semifinal contest is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Columbia City. A limited quantity of tickets are available for purchase at the door. For those unable to attend, the game will be broadcast live on WVSH 91.9 FM radio and can be viewed live online via pay-per-view at IHSAAtv.org.
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