A-P girls end long wait for county championship
DANVILLE — They didn’t score the first points and they didn’t score the last points, but Armstrong-Potomac scored the most points in between the start and the finish.
For the first time in a decade, the top-seeded Trojans hoisted the trophy and cut down the nets Friday following a 37-32 triumph against second-seeded Georgetown-Ridge Farm before an estimated 1,000 spectators at Palmer Arena in the championship game of the 33rd girls’ Vermilion County Tournament.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Morgan Zindars, one of A-P’s three all-tournament selections.
Zindars and championship-game star Johanna Bruens (19 rebounds, 10 second-half points) were in first grade at Gifford Grade School the only previous time A-P won the county crown (2003).
They were eventually part of a grade school team “that went to state,” Zindars said.
Now they are part of a veteran varsity unit where every starter is either a junior or a senior.
With that experience, A-P didn’t get flustered when the Buffaloes (15-4) jumped into an 11-3 lead in the final half-minute of the opening quarter.
“We just needed to knock down some shots,” A-P coach Nick Hipsher said. “Defensively, we just had to stick to what we were doing.”
Though the Trojans still trailed at halftime, they had momentum based on holding G-RF scoreless the entire second quarter.
“We’ve done that other times,” Zindars said, “but here, it mattered.”
A three-point shot by Zindars sent A-P (15-7) into the lead for good, 14-13, at the 5:07 mark of the third period. There were no more lead changes.
Bruens made sure of that, dominating the inside.
“One of our goals was to rebound well, and she took that to heart,” Hipsher said. “She was huge in the second half.”
Hipsher said all seven of the Trojans who entered the game made contributions.
“It was a complete team effort and shows what hard work can do,” he said. “Games like this are what you practice in the summer hours and hours for. It’s a great feeling. I’m super happy.”
Zindars led the Trojans with 12 points. Erika Sieberns just missed joining Bruens with a double-double, ending with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Maya Green kept G-RF in contention, draining four three-pointers (three in the last 10 minutes) en route to a game-high 16 points. Brittany Hay scored eight points and had a game-high 11 rebounds, two more than teammate Callan Hall.
“We couldn’t get shots to go in the basket,” said Buffaloes coach Michelle Brooks, whose team made 21.4 percent of its shots (12 of 56) and in one stretch missed 21 attempts in a row. “They played good defense and played pressure where it needed to be applied. It was hard to keep the momentum with us.”
Brooks has until Thursday to come up with an answer for Bruens on the inside. A-P will play in Georgetown in four days in a Vermilion Valley Conference game.
“She’s very physical and hard to defend,” Brooks said. “She pushed us around underneath the basket.”
From Bruens’ perspective, there was plenty of help to go around.
“We don’t just count on one person,” she said. “We work well as a team.”
That Armstrong-Potomac team is today a team of champions.
Not an early 10-2 deficit or nine total first-half points could discourage Bismarck-Henning or its veteran coach Mike Stephens.
“I thought we had no energy early, but we say even on nights you don’t have your best stuff, you have to grind it out and find a way to win,” Stephens said.
With freshman Lindsay Andrews scoring a team-high 13 points and playing shutdown defense on the Tigers’ Ashley Hoffman, B-H rallied for a 36-28 victory.
“She (Andrews) is a very athletic kid and has a nice shot,” Stephens said. “All three of our freshmen were keys.”
Stephens saw similarities in his current team and the previous five, which won Vermilion County titles.
“This team played pretty much like the other five,” Stephens said. “They played hard and gave themselves a chance to win.”
Brooke Walsh had eight points and 10 rebounds for B-H (8-15). Teammate Addie Voyles had seven points and seven rebounds.
Danielle Gabehart led Westville with nine points. Hoffman cleared a team-high eight rebounds.
The numbers have gone against Salt Fork this season.
“We’ve lost 11 games by eight points or less,” coach Jeff Carleton said. “The majority of those we were ahead or had our chances.”
The Storm played another eight-point game Friday. This time, it was on the winning side, rallying to hand Hoopeston Area a 34-26 loss.
“Maybe now we’re starting to finish,” Carleton said.
Emilie McFadden scored a game-high nine points for Salt Fork. She also had a team-high eight rebounds. Taylor Vice added eight points, including 4 of 6 from the free throw line in the final 90 seconds.
Hoopeston’s Cayla Davis led the Cornjerkers with eight points. Teammate Shelby Holzinger corralled a game-high nine rebounds.