By Travis Smola
Vicksburg and Schoolcraft are fast becoming rivals in basketball. The varsity girls’ matchup held on Eagles’ turf should add more fuel to that fire as Schoolcraft picked up a 48-43 win in a game that came down to the wire.
“Early in the season you’re going to go through ups and downs,” Schoolcraft Head Coach Max Kulczyk said of his first game as coach. “This was a good test. Vicksburg’s a good team.”
The Bulldogs started the game fast with an early lead 12-8 lead through the first period. Much of the charge was led by Maddison Diekman, who had 10 points in the contest. However, Vicksburg did an excellent job of spreading the ball around to Emma Steele, Hanna DeVries, Kendra Cooley, Cate Curtis, Scarlett Hosner and Kayla Mottl.
“You know, I just told my girls in the locker room they played hard,” Vicksburg Head Coach Tim Kirby said. “Schoolcraft just made free throws down the stretch and sometimes that’s how games go.”
The two teams traded points back and forth for much of the game. However, Schoolcraft’s Mackenzie Miller was simply too much for the Bulldogs to stop. She put up over 20 points in the contest and was also a force on defense all night.
Madison Ingle and Allison Bailey also had big nights. Liv Ellison, Caley Kerwin and Hannah Thompson helped the Eagles take a 20-17 lead at the end of two. In the second half, things stayed close. Vicksburg managed to re-take the lead with about 5:30 left in the game which set up a thrilling finish where the teams traded a tied score and the lead back and forth.
In the end, the Eagles made more rebounds and connected on more of their free throw opportunities than the Bulldogs, which ended up being the difference down the stretch.
“It came down to what we said at the beginning of the game: ‘Rebound the basketball, don’t turn the ball over.’ That’s kind of our MO. If we can limit turnovers and rebounds, I like our chances,” Kulczyk said. “We struggled with that a little bit throughout the game, but at the end of the day it came down to that.”
The score of the game was tied 41-41 by Vicksburg’s Steele with under two minutes left, and then tied again at 43-43 by Mottl shortly after. However, when the Eagles went up 45-43, the Bulldogs were forced to foul Miller, who connected on some key free throws to widen the gap between the two teams.
“My team fought pretty hard in the second half. We got some steals, we found a way to get the game back,” Kirby said. “I’ve got a young, young team, and they showed a lot tonight just with their fight and effort.”