By TED RADICK
Liberty-Benton’s defensive output was apparent from the opening whistle Thursday.
“We wanted to hold Glick and Cramer down the best we could,” Eagles coach Nate Irwin said. “They came in averaging about 36 points per game between them, so we knew if we didn’t contain them we were going to have to score a lot of points to win.”
Liberty-Benton did the job on defense, keeping Arcadia’s Courtney Cramer (17.9 ppg) and Molly Glick (17.8) below their averages with 16 and 10 points, respectively, in a 55-40 Blanchard Valley Conference victory that clinched at least a share of the league title.
Liberty-Benton, ranked eighth in the latest Associated Press Division III, poll improved to 15-1 and 8-0 in league play. The Eagles host Arlington on Feb. 6 with a chance for an unbeaten BVC season; Leipsic (14-3, 7-1 BVC) plays at McComb that night and remains in the league race.
“It wasn’t just one girl playing defense on Glick and Cramer,” Irwin said. “We knew it would take a team effort. There’s times when Molly just makes plays. You think you have her guarded, and the next thing you know she’s so athletic she just jumps through the lane and makes a basket.”
Cramer scored five points in the first quarter and her putback off an offensive rebound gave Arcadia (11-4, 6-2 BVC) a 17-13 lead with 6:21 remaining to halftime.
Thus challenged, Liberty-Benton responded with a 16-2 run to close out the half. Rachel Myers got things going with a 3-pointer and Lauren Kotey added a layup off an inbounds play to give the Eagles an 18-17 edge.
Another Myers 3-pointer and another putback off an offensive board, this time by Jensen Hiegel, stretched the lead to 23-17. Carrie Reynolds, Kotey and Myers added baskets as L-B went up 29-19 at the break.
That kind of balanced Liberty-Benton scoring was just what Arcadia coach Randy Baker was afraid of.
“They’re just a solid ballclub,” Baker said. “You have an inside-ouside game, you have kids who can shoot the ball, everybody can score. You can’t slough off on one, and when we did we paid for it.”
“We have a lot of players that can shoot,” Myers said. “If other teams slide over on one player, someone else can make a basket. So they guard her tighter, and that opens it up for someone else.”
Irwin, for his part, wanted some more effort on the glass after watching the Redskins grab seven offensive rebounds in the first half.
“We held them to 19 points in the first half and had a 10-point lead, but 12 of their points came from our mistakes,” he said. “We weren’t rebounding well. We were contesting their first shot pretty well, but the points we gave up were easy ones.”
Nicolette DeVincentis added a pair of 3-pointers for L-B in the third quarter and another to start the fourth as the Eagles stretched their lead to 19 points at 46-27.
Myers led the Eagles with 22 points, with DeVincentis adding 12, Kotey 10 and Reynolds 7.
“Balance has been key for us all season,” Irwin said. “Losing Katie Simon and her 18 points before the season left a big hole for us offensively, so we’ve had to have girls respond and they have.”
Arcadia was down but not out. Abbie Dauterman, who finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, put back an offensive rebound of her own shot. Cramer nailed a 3-pointer, Glick got inside for a pair of layups and Cramer finished an 11-1 run with a pair of free throws as the Redskins cut the L-B lead to 47-38.
“We don’t care who we play, we come into every game thinking we are going to win,” Baker said.
“I thought we were playing pretty well,” Irwin said, “but against a good team like Arcadia, sometimes they have a way of making it look like we weren’t. That’s what happens when you play a good basketball team.
You’re trying to do the right thing and you can’t, because they’re just making good plays.”
Myers scored six points in the final couple of minutes to finish things off for the Eagles. She added five assists; Heigel led the Eagles with seven rebounds.
Liberty-Benton now turns its focus to a perfect league record and sole possession to the BVC title.
“The three teams we lost to in the league (McComb, Arcadia and Arlington) last year are our last three league games this year,” Myers said. “We knew the final stretch was going to be the toughest, and now we’ve beaten two of the three we lost to last year.
“We’re not satisfied. We don’t want to share.”
Arcadia (11-4, 6-2 BVC)
Mock 0-0–0, Kirian 2-0–4, Pina 0-0–0, Glick 4-2–10, Cramer 5-4–16, Dauterman 4-2–10, Ware 0-0–0. TOTALS: 15-41 8-13–40.
Liberty-Benton (15-1, 8-0 BVC)
Trevino 0-0–0, Kotey 4-2–10, Myers 7-6–22, Hiegel 2-0–4, DeVincentis 4-0–12, Reynolds 3-0–7.
TOTALS: 20-43 8-11–55.
Arcadia 13 6 8 13 — 40
Liberty-Benton 13 16 14 12 — 55
3-POINT GOALS: Arcadia 2-13 (Cramer 2); Liberty-Benton 7-21 (DeVincentis 4, Myers 2, Reynolds).
REBOUNDS: Arcadia 24 (Dauterman 10); Liberty-Benton 18 (Hiegel 7).
TURNOVERS: Arcadia 13, Liberty-Benton 12.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Liberty-Benton, 22-20.
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