DARLINGTON — It was a topsy-turvy week in the SWAL last week and when it was all said and done, the Darlington Redbirds girls’ basketball team found themselves in a three-way tie for the conference lead after opening the week in a two-way tie atop the league.
All things considered, the ‘Birds are pretty happy to be where they are at in the standings.
The Redbirds (9-4 overall, 6-1 SWAL) dropped out of the SWAL lead on night when they suffered their first league loss of the season to conference co-leader Cuba City, 58-53.
Then, just three days later, the ‘Birds jumped right back into first-place after they took care of Iowa-Grant, 71-27, and Mineral Point (11-3, 6-1) did them a bit of a favor by handing the Lady Cubans (10-4, 6-1) their first loss of the season, 58-41, to forge a three-way tie atop the standings at the mid-point of the season.
“The girls bounced back exactly as I thought they would. The team went into the game knowing that now we were in a different position and again fighting our way back to the top. They responded with a strong 36 minutes of basketball,” said Coach Mariah McMullen, who improved to 2-1 filling in for head coach Kelly Rose.
Junior guard Kathleen Mathias poured in a game-high 21 points to lead the way for Darlington and senior forward Kennedy Rankin chipped in with a season-high 16 points to send the Redbirds flying over the visiting Panthers, 71-27, at DHS on Friday, Jan. 12.
The ‘Birds charged out to a 38-16 lead in the first half of play, and then tripled up on the Panthers (3-8, 2-5) in the second half, 33-11, to roll to a 44-point victory.
Junior Kaylee Meyers scored 14 points and classmate Casey Glendenning netted seven points for the ‘Birds.
“A big key to our win over the Panthers was getting back to what we are good at. The team was able to play aggressively on defense, causing turnovers, spreading out on offense, and a well-balanced score among our girls. Eleven different players were able to contribute offensively on Friday. When you have that many players able to score, it becomes a challenge for the other team to make stops defensively,” noted McMullen.
Sophomore point guard Annie Spurley led the Panthers with 14 points.
At Cuba City, on Tuesday, Jan. 9, the host Cubans went 7-for-8 at the foul line over the final 1:18 to shoot down the Lady Redbirds, 58-53, in a battle of SWAL unbeatens.
“It was a well fought game by both teams. We matched up well against each other, but things just didn’t fall our way in the final minutes. We knew it would come down to the wire, and we couldn’t capitalize on our play during that time,” said Coach Mariah McMullen.
No more than seven points separated the two teams all night and the game was not decided until the final seconds ticked off the clock.
The Cubans used an early 7-0 run to grab a 15-8 advantage, but the ‘Birds charged right back with nine unanswered points to go up 17-15.
Cuba City regained the lead on consecutive baskets by Elizabeth Misky, Parker Kopp and Courtney Busch, and the hosts maintained a 25-22 lead at the intermission.
The lead switched hands six times in the second half. Darlington went ahead for the last time on a three-point play by senior Chelsey Golackson with 6:32 remaining, however the Cubans came storming back with free throws from Misky and Sophia Sander and a basket by Kiera Holzemer to open up a 49-46 edge.
A three-point play by Kaylee Meyers with 2:04 to go evened the score at 49 all.
A free throw by Busch put the Cubans ahead to stay with 1:12 remaining. Holzemer and Misky sank two free throws apiece and Kopp added a layup to put the hosts ahead 56-49 with 20 seconds to go, and Misky sealed the deal with a pair of free throws with six seconds remaining.
“Looking back at our stats after the game, a key to the outcome was free throws. They doubled our amount of attempts from the line and went 7-for-8 in the final minutes. Looking at shooting percentage, number of possessions and rebounding, we out-played them in every area of the game statistically. We simply fell short when we needed a big play to put the game away. The girls are excited to have them again at home later in the season,” McMullen commented.
Meyers finished with 17 points to lead the Redbirds. Kathleen Mathias followed with 12 points, while Bethany McDonald and Reagan Crist added six points apiece for the ‘Birds.
Holzemer netted a game-high 21 points to lead the Cubans. Misky chipped in with 14 points and Kopp tallied 13 points for the hosts.
Darlington has key upcoming SWAL games at Mineral Point on Thursday, Jan. 18, and at home against Riverdale on Tuesday, Jan. 23.
Darlington………… 22 31 – 53
Cuba City…………. 25 33 – 58
Darlington – Bethany McDonald 6, Meghan Douglas 3, Casey Glendenning 1, Kathleen Mathias 12, Reagan Crist 6, Chelsie Golackson 3, Kennedy Rankin 4, Kaylee Meyers 18. Totals – 20 9-13 53.
Cuba City – Elizabeth Misky 14, Megan Hartl 2, Parker Kopp 13, Courtney Busch 6, Kiera Holzemer 21, Sophia Sander 2. Totals – 19 17-25 58.
3-point goals– D 4 (McDonald 2, Douglas 1, Meyers 1), CC 3 (Misky 1, Busch 1, Holzemer 1). Total fouls– D 19, CC 16. Fouled out– D: McDonald, CC: Hartl.
Iowa-Grant……….. 16 11 – 27
Darlington………... 38 33 – 71
Iowa-Grant – Oakes 2, Olson 3, Harmening 2, Liddicoat 6, A. Spurley 14. Totals – 0 0-0 27.
Darlington – Brenna McDonald 2, Bethany McDonald 2, Meghan Douglas 1, Casey Glendenning 7, Kathleen Mathias 21, Reagan Crist 2, Maddie Crist 2, Marissa Gould 2, Chelsie Golackson 2, Kennedy Rankin 16, Kaylee Meyers 14. Totals – 0 0-0 71.
3-point goals– IG 1 (Olson 1), D 5 (Mathias 1, Rankin 2, Meyers 2). Total fouls– IG 12, D 13. Fouled out– none.