ARMA — The Northeast girls’ basketball team rebounded from slow start in the first quarter to earn a 56-44 win over Riverton Friday at home.
The Viking girls (7-2) were trailing through much of the first quarter before a late run in the final two minutes put them in a good position for the last three periods. Northeast used strong defense to create offensive opportunities in the second quarter, building the advantage to more than 10. NHS ran away in the second half before the Rams put on a late charge with too little time remaining.
“A game like tonight shows you that we have six pretty good girls who can step up any night,” Northeast head coach Scott Post said. “I feel like we are on track to have a better record than last year and go deeper in the postseason. We’ve got a long way to go, of course. It’s exciting and I think there is potential for some really great things.”
Jaycie Polhlopek led all scorers with 22 points for the Vikings. She had seven field goals in the win, two of which were from 3-point range.
“She is one of the greatest girls in basketball I have ever coached,” Post said. “The thing I am seeing with her this year is the leadership. She is getting them fired up ... Jaycie was really attacking the basket tonight, which was exciting to see.”
Kelsea Choate had 11 points for Northeast, while Autumn Walker finished with eight.
Madison Walker and Haley Robinson each had six points in the win.
After a bit of a sluggish start to the first quarter, the Viking girls found themselves trailing before turning the game around around with a 9-0 run to head into the second quarter with a 14-10 lead.
“I kept feeling like we were going to go on a run, but I didn’t know when it was going to happen,” Post said. “We missed some shots on some open looks. We were getting outrebounded, and quite frankly, we were getting outhustled.”
Polhlopek and Choate sparked the run with back-to-back triples with 40 seconds left to give NHS their first lead since the 4:38 mark.
Autumn Walker pulled down an offensive rebound with time running out and hit jumper in the lane for the put-back score to send Northeast into the second eight minutes of play with a four-point lead.
While the lack of rebounding and sloppy play on defense seemed to plague the Northeast girls early, they clearly made the adjustment late in the first and all the way through halftime to build their lead to double digits.
“What changed was we went to our half-court trapping zone,” Post said. “As soon as we made the switch from man, I felt like we had them off balanced and out of sync. Our girls did a good job of forcing them into turnovers.”
After Riverton’s Kobee Turley scored from the high post to start the second quarter, Northeast rattled off nine straight points, thanks in large part to their defense.
Turley finished the game as the Rams’ leading scorer with 17 points in the loss.
Robinson was a large part of that defensive success, coming off the bench to help the Vikings force six Ram turnovers, which turned into points the other.
“Haley did such a great job of rotating in our trap defense,” Post said. “She is one of those girls who takes pride in her defense. She isn’t a real tall girl, but she moves and she’s strong. She has a done a real good job for us.”
Polhlopek and Kayla Johnston had scores inside before Choate knocked down a 3-pointer off a steal and scored onside after pulling down an offensive rebound to make the score 23-12 to play with four minutes left in the half.
The Rams got the lead back to single digits following a 3-pointer from Macy Williams at the top of the key, but Polhlopek scored twice on drives to the basket to close out the half with the Vikings up 13, 28-15.
Northeast held serve in the third, and the Vikings pushed their lead to a game-high 22 points, 52-30, with 2:38 left in the game on a baseline jumper from seven feet out by Madison Walker.
The Vikings girls take part in the Tony Dubray Classic starting with a matchup against Golden City as the three seed at 7 p.m. Monday at Liberal High School.
Early deficit hinders Northeast boys
Riverton built themselves a double-digit lead in the first two quarters of play and the Northeast boys’ basketball team couldn’t find a way to get back within striking distance, falling 61-50 to the Rams Friday at home.
Riverton used their length all over the floor to build up an early advantage against the Vikings. With the Riverton lead at 10 points by halftime, Northeast didn’t make a serious run at the lead until late in the fourth when they cut it to two possessions. Riverton ultimately had an answer for every Viking basket down the stretch, earning the road win in Arma.
“I thought we struggled offensively all night,” Northeast head coach Russ Cramer said. “I don’t think we struggled with execution. We had the ball in spots where we usually make shots — we just didn’t make them tonight. Their size gave us a lot of problems both in the paint and on the perimeter.”
Northeast senior Drew Mills gave the Vikings a spark with the 3-ball in the final two minutes of the game. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the deficit.
“That’s the good thing about our team. We have kids like Drew who are capable of knocking down shots from anywhere,” Cramer said. “Finding that guy, and playing unselfishly to find out who that guys is each night is something we’re trying to move forward and look to do.”
With the Vikings trailing 50-41 and 2:20 remaining, Mills caught the ball at the far wing and drilled a shot beyond the arc to cut the Riverton lead to six points.
The Rams had a pair of baskets on consecutive possessions to push the advantage back to 10, but Mills knocked down a second 3-pointer with a minute left to keep his team alive.
Mills made it a trifecta of triples when he came off a low off-ball screen for the catch-and-shoot 3-pointer from the wing with 36 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 55-50.
Mills finished the game with a tie for the team high in points at 13.
The Rams made their free throws down the stretch and had enough stops defensively to hold on for the win.
Ethan Snider matched Mills with 13 points, while Austin Baker finished at nine.
Grant North and Kyle Smith were dynamic for the Rams, using their size all over the floor to help lead Riverton to the victory.
“We knew coming that their size was going to create some problems for us,” Cramer said. “I think it really came down to us losing some rebounds in the first half, which led to second-chance points. We had a hard time making up for that.”
Smith led all scorers with 17 points, scoring inside and outside.
North finished the game with 16 points, doing much of the work in the paint for the Rams.
Dalton Weaver finished the game with 14 points, and Dylan Deckard was the fourth Rams’ player to finish in double figures with 10 points.
The Viking boys are the No. 1-seed in the Tony Dubray Classic and face Golden City at 8:30 p.m. Monday at Liberal High School.
Lucas Davis is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter at @LDsportswriter.