INA -- Facing a team for a third time in a season is no easy task. A third matchup with rival Vincennes stood between the Wabash Valley College Lady Warriors and a District P Tournament Championship.
Having defeated the Lady Trailblazers 89-62 and 81-70 in their previous two meetings, they knew Vincennes would come well prepared and likely challenge them.
They withstood the best Vincennes could toss and defeated the Lady Trailblazers 95-78 on Friday night to secure a District P Tournament Championship and capping a historic season entering the National Tournament.
Vincennes kept it close much of the first half. As Wabash Valley threw its vaunted press at the Lady Trailblazers, they made the right passes and methodically pushed the ball up. Sophomore guard Marie Hunter picked up her second foul with 5:12 remaining in the first quarter, forcing the Lady Warriors to turn to their reserve guards.
"We have great depth I believe at the guard position and post position," Wabash Valley College head women's basketball coach Jack Trosper spoke of Hunter picking up her second foul. "I thought we were still solid without her. I didn't want to take a chance and put her in in the first half because other girls like Ryan and Alexis could come in and step up. That was great to see when we had Marie go down there, I just didn't want to take a chance on her getting a third. I thought our girls did a good job of continuing to run the offense, Marie does a really good job of running our offense but we scored 49 points in the first half without her, I thought that was great."
Trailing 17-15 with two minutes to go in the second half, freshman guard Keya Patton flipped a switch into another gear. Patton scored seven of the last 10 points of the quarter for the Lady Warriors, including a buzzer-beating finish through contact off a screen. Wabash Valley ended the quarter on a 10-2 run, taking a 25-19 lead.
After a quarter of Vincennes routinely breaking the press, Wabash Valley amped up their intensity and started to cause some deflections. Sophomore guard Dazha Congleton picked up back-to-back steals and finished in transition on one, the other a transition feed to freshman KK White, giving the Lady Warriors a 36-24 lead.
A pair of technicals on Wabash Valley in the second quarter allowed Vincennes to close the gap to 49-41 at the half.
The Lady Trailblazers started to show desperation in the third quarter and were playing like their season was on the line. The deficit was trimmed down to just three on several occasions, but the Lady Warriors withstood it.
An already up-tempo game continued to amp up, with the Lady Warriors pushing the tempo. They ended the quarter on a 9-0 run and took a 76-62 lead at the end of the quarter.
Lady Warrior sophomore Jordyn Dawson had a fantastic game. Known for her defensive prowess, Dawson was active on the boards and finished well around the basket as well. Dawson finished the final quarter with the six points in the frame, including a few tough offensive boards and nice transition assist to a streaking Hunter.
There wasn't much Vincennes could do once Wabash Valley imposed its will. The Lady Warriors came away with the impressive 17-point victory.
Vincennes was without their head coach, Harry Meeks. Meeks, in his 28th season as head coach at Vincennes, reportedly wasn't well and was unable to make the trip to Ina. Hopefully all is well with him. Assistant coach Clyde Buck filled in for Meeks.
"I thought they played really hard," coach Trosper spoke of Vincennes. "I thought they played inspired for their head coach who unfortunately couldn't be there, he was in our thoughts and prayers. I thought they gave us a great game but our girls weathered the different storms they threw at us. Everytime they wanted to make a run we were able to counter with a run of our own. That started on the defensive end with us being aggressive and rebounding it well in the second half. I thought in the first half we didn't rebound as well, in the second I thought we did a good job of limiting their second chance opportunities. I thought that was a big key in the second half."
As the buzzer sounded there was a joyous celebration postgame, with both the men's and women's Wabash Valley College teams celebrating as the Lady Warriors capped their historic feat and won the championship.
Five Lady Warriors were named to the All-Region team, including Patton, sophomore guard Alexis Thomas, Congleton, Hunter and freshman big Pearl Dean. Wabash Valley head coach Jack Trosper was named Coach of the Year.
The Lady Warriors were led in scoring by Dawson's 19 points, Congleton's 17 points, Patton's 13 and Hunter's 12. Vincennes' Jaynice Stovall finished with 23 points.
"Yeah, they were both playing at a very high level today," coach Trosper spoke of Dawson and Congleton. "I thought that was great, especially when we went smaller and basically played Jordyn Dawson there at the five in the second half, I thought we didn't lose anything rebounding wise but we were also able to spread the floor and attack them on the perimeter."
Notably, sophomore Kyra Hogan wasn't dressed and reportedly had food poisoning. Freshman big Shi Banks saw additional run in her absence but injured what appeared to be her knee in the game. Coach Trosper says she'll be ok, as it appears just to be a bruise and she'll be day-to-day.
Wabash Valley (31-0) concludes the season unblemished entering the National Tournament, their first undefeated regular season campaign in program history and their first 31-0 start.
With the road to Lubbock, Texas officially over, they'll find out their fates on Monday at 11 a.m. when the tournament is announced. I suspect they'll be slotted as the No. 1 team once again. Coach Trosper says his girls are excited and will be prepared for the challenge they'll face in the Longhorn state.
"I think we're going to be ready," coach Trosper said. "I think they're excited. We've played in some big games now, they've got experience under their belts in that. We'll do our best to prepare them this week. We know we have our hands full in Texas because there's a lot of quality teams down there. We're going to do everything we can to prepare them and I think our girls are going to be ready to go. They've done a great job of preparing themselves and understanding the gameplan each night. We look forward to seeing them do that in Texas as well."
WVC -- 25 24 27 19 -- 95
V -- 19 22 21 16 -- 78
WVC scoring: Dawson 19 points, Congleton 17 points, Patton 13 points, Hunter 12 points, White eight points, Dean eight points, Thomas eight points.