MOUNT CARMEL -- It's not often Wabash Valley College women's basketball team receives a challenge this season. Typically the Lady Warriors dominate an opponent from start to finish. It's surely nice to put together a complete performance and rout a team, but it's almost to a point where Lady Warrior head coach Jack Trosper welcomes a challenge for his girls, so he can see how they handle adversity and who rises to the occasion.
"I think it definitely helps us without question," coach Trosper spoke of being presented with a challenging game. "It puts them in stressful situations that we haven't been in very much, then it helps me see, and us see, who can rise to the occasion and step up to it. . . . Obviously as a coach you'd rather win big, its a little less stressful, but it's welcome stress as long as we can keep taking care of business.
They received such a challenge on Friday night at Wabash Valley College in a rivalry game against Vincennes. It was the second time the two teams faced off this season, with Wabash Valley defeating the Lady Trailblazers 89-62 back on Jan. 23 in Vincennes. This time, the No. 1 ranked Lady Warriors hosted Vincennes in front of a packed crowd and held off Vincennes 81-70.
The Lady Warriors received a welcome addition back to the lineup, sophomore Jordyn Dawson. They were a bit shorthanded without freshman Keya Patton tonight, but others stepped up in Patton's role.
"She was a major factor," coach Trosper spoke of Dawson and freshman KK White. "I thought her and KK, when they came in off the bench gave us a lot of juice on both ends of the floor. I thought they were aggressive, I thought they were active, you bring two 5'11, 6-footers off the bench that have great range and athleticism. I thought that could create fits for them and thought it did in that first half especially. KK making some big shots down at the end, Jordyn was aggressive all night.
It was a highly contested first quarter. Vincennes was locked in on defense and seemed prepared for a challenge against the Lady Warriors. Sophomore sharpshooter Alexis Thomas helped Wabash Valley weather through the first seven minutes, hitting three of 3-pointers on nice high screen designs to give Thomas open shots. Thomas' prowess from the arc helped the Lady Warriors take a 23-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
"I thought our girls were prepared, I thought they played really well in the first half," coach Trosper spoke of his team's start. "I thought our energy was great, our crowd was phenomenal, that helped. Our bench depth was phenomenal."
Vincennes reduced the lead to just seven before Wabash Valley started to impose its will. The tempo started to favor the Lady Warriors as the pace became more frantic, caused by deflections which led to transition opportunities. Sophomore point guard Marie hunter had an exceptional quarter running their offense. Hunter pushed the ball in transition, scored seven points and tallied three assists in the quarter. It suddenly turned into a wide margin as Wabash Valley entered the break with a 49-28 lead.
"I think they were focusing on me when I drove in, crowded around me," Hunter said. "It left my teammates open for a good opportunity to pass the ball to them for a good shot."
Rebounding became a concern in the second half that plagued the Lady Warriors, some long rebounds found its way into the arms of the Lady Trailblazers. Even still, Wabash Valley boasted a 65-47 lead entering the fourth quarter
That lead was quicky reduced, however. Vincennes opened the fourth with an offensive board and putback. The Lady Trailblazers added a 3-pointer and a transition finish to reduce the lead down to 65-54, as Vincennes was on a 10-0 run. Coach Trosper called a timeout to settle his girls and it seemed to do the trick.
After allowing Vincennes to become more aggressive on the glass, freshman Pearl Dean entered the game following the timeout and immediately changed the tone of the physicality between the two teams.
Dean grabbed four offensive rebounds between two possessions and scored putbacks on each one, pushing the Lady Warriors lead to 69-54 in a nice response. White followed Dean's contributions with a dagger 3-pointer to push the lead to an 18-point margin.
Wabash Valley coasted the rest of the way and survived with an 11-point victory over a hardnosed Vincennes team that showed an admirable amount of relentlessness.
White and Dean highlighted a host of Lady Warriors who had really nice games. White finished her night with 18 points and six boards on 4-for-6 shooting from behind the arc. Dean posted a 13-point, 10 rebound double-double, with an astounding eight offensive rebounds. Hunter finished with a stat-stuffing 10 points, six boards and seven assists. Sophomore Dazha Congleton was the other Lady Warrior in double-figures with her 10-point, 10 rebound double-double. Vincennes was led by Fess Hawkins 14-point, 18 rebound night.
The final rebounding edge favored the Lady Warriors 45-40 and Wabash Valley shot 10 of 19 from behind the arc, in contrast to Vincennes' 5 of 26 from distance, two keys in the ballgame.
"Credit to them for their effort on the glass, I thought they did a good job of crashing hard and we need to do a better job of that," coach Trosper said. "But in the fourth quarter when we needed some real big stops I thought we got rebounds on the back side. A lot of the time they were shooting a lot of 3's, they took 26 3's and it usually creates long rebounds and opportunities. It's one of those deals that where we'll look at it, we'll sure it up. But I thought at the end of the game when we needed some major rebounds on that back side with [Fess] Hawkins right there, I thought we got that."
Wabash Valley (27-0) ended its regular season with a 101-43 victory over Lincoln Trail in a Saturday afternoon game and will follow that with the Region XXIV Tournament beginning next week. They hope a challenge such as the one against Vincennes will prepare them for the eventuality of close games in next week's tournament, or likely even nationals.
"We've got four more games before nationals hopfully," Trosper said. "We're going to keep preparing game by game and keep working on those different situations hopefully to prepare us for Texas."
WVC -- 23 26 16 16 -- 81
V -- 12 16 19 23 -- 70
WVC scoring: White 6 2 18, Dean 6 1 13, Hunter 3 3 10, Congleton 4 1 10, Thomas 3 0 9, Luna 3 1 8, Hogan 2 2 6, Dawson 2 1 5, Banks 1 0 2.