Bulldogs end perfect season with playoff win

Vicksburg’s Kendra Cooley and Hannah DeVries.

By Travis Smola

The Vicksburg varsity girls’ basketball team didn’t start off the season planning to go undefeated, but the team’s approach to one game at a time eventually got them there. The Bulldogs ended their season with a 53-38 win over rival Edwardsburg on the road, and then followed that up with a solid 53-30 win over Marshall in their first game of District play.

“Us getting to 22-0 was unthinkable, really. That wasn’t our goal,” Head Coach Tim Kirby said. “You always want to win them all, but you don’t ever really think you’re going to win them all as the season goes on.”

With the game against Marshall being on home court, the girls fed off the energy of the crowd to get off to a 17-0 lead early in the first. It was 23-3 after the first period and the Redhawks had no answer against the stifling Vicksburg defense.

Marshall tried to key in on Maddison Diekman all evening and just ended up handing the Bulldogs easy points as she sunk seven free throws on her way to 19 points, and seven rebounds. Makayla Allen caused problems for the Redhawks inside all evening, scoring 14 points, 12 of which came on field goals.

Emma Steele was the next leading scorer with nine points. Scarlett Hosner was a key play on defense all evening, knocking down several shot opportunities and scoring seven points and bringing down six rebounds. Hannah DeVries rounded out the scoring with four points on a field goal and two free throws.

The game was 35-10 at the half and 46-17 after three. It was only in the final minutes that Marshall was able to finally start putting some points on the board. By that point, it was too late. Kirby credited the support of the community as being a huge factor in the team’s success. Many of their wins, especially against teams like Sturgis, Three Rivers, and Otsego this year have been blowouts.

“The last six weeks have been unbelievable with the crowd support,” Kirby said. “Our fans, we kind of feed off that energy early. It kind of started with our first Edwardsburg game. The crowd was pretty full for that first Edwardsburg game, and I think they kind of helped propel us a little bit.

“I think our girls just feed off the energy. It’s so neat to come in, and see the gym full with people here to support us, and support our team. And our girls deserve that. They’ve had an incredible season, they deserve the support.”

The historic nature of this season isn’t lost on Kirby, although he said originally their goal was to simply win 18 games and win the conference. It wasn’t until a nailbiter 60-57 win over Stevensville Lakeshore at the end of January that the team realized a perfect season was a possibility.

“Being honest, once we got over the Lakeshore game, we started to feel a little bit like ‘Okay, we’ve got a shot at this,’” Kirby said. “So, 22-0 for the regular season, it’s awesome, it’s something that can never be beaten, it can be matched someday, but they’re not going to expand over 22 games. So, that’s a record that will probably stand forever here. But now, it’s a new season, 22-0 doesn’t matter in the playoffs.”

One major key to the success of the Bulldogs this year has simply been not looking too far ahead on the schedule. The girls have taken every contest one game at a time.

“Even when you get teams that you know you’re quite a bit better than, you don’t want to look two or three games ahead to Edwardsburg or whoever that next big game is because you’ve got to win the one that’s right in front of you,” Kirby said. “I honestly think Marshall was a dangerous team tonight. We watched them tonight and we couldn’t look ahead to Olivet. And we don’t look ahead. These girls, they just come in every day, and we work, and we focus, and we prepare for that next game.”

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