MINERAL POINT — Darlington defended its spot atop the SWAL girls’ basketball standings thanks to a convincing 69-51 victory over the host Mineral Point Pointers at MPHS on Thursday, Jan. 18.
The Redbirds (10-4 overall, 7-1 SWAL) and Pointers (11-4, 6-2) entered the second half of the SWAL season in a three-way tie along with Cuba City (11-4, 7-1), but by the end of Thursday night only the ‘Birds and the Cubans remained in first-place.
“We talked as a team this week that it has been a long time since a conference title has been discussed with Darlington girls’ basketball. The girls are taking pride in the hard work and dedication they have put into this program, and are definitely deserving of the success they have had thus far,” said Darlington coach Mariah McMullen, who improved to 3-1 filling in for head coach Kelly Rose during her maternity leave. “The girls knew this was a must have win to continue their fight for the conference title, and I am very proud of how disciplined they were able to play with the pressure and atmosphere of a big game.”
After junior guard Kaylee Meyers gave the Redbirds an early 8-6 lead on a 3-pointer, the Pointers broke off on a 12-4 run to open up an 18-12 advantage with 9:04 to play in the opening half.
The ‘Birds answered right back with a 10 straight points to regain the lead at 22-18. Junior guards Kathleen Mathias and Bethany McDonald teamed up on the 10-0 run with Mathias converting a three-point play and adding two free throws to cut the deficit down to one and McDonald following with a 3-pointer and a putback to put Darlington back on top to stay.
Senior Chelsie Golackson added a 3-pointer and a 2-pointer for the ‘Birds to extend the lead to seven with just over four minutes remaining in the half, and Darlington took a 34-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Pointers went 8-for-11 at the foul line in the first half to stay close to Darlington, who knocked down four of their five free throws in the half.
“Mineral Point has a great attack offense and got us into foul trouble the first time we played them as well. They are a great free throw shooting team, and we knew if we kept putting them at the line it was going to keep them in the game. At halftime, we stressed the importance of moving our feet and getting our hands up and out,” explained McMullen
The Pointers used an 8-0 run early in the second half to pull within a basket at 37-35, however the Redbirds responded right back with a 21-5 scoring burst to build up a 18-point advantage with 6:50 to play.
Then, the ‘Birds put the game away at the foul line, converting seven of their final eight free throw attempts to extend their lead to as many as 20 en route to a decisive win over the Pointers.
“It was nice to see that this time down the stretch we were able to hit free throws. It speaks loudly of our team to be able to shoot confidently at the line that late in the game,” McMullen stated.
The Redbirds went 11-of-13 from the line in the second half and finished the game out-shooting the Pointers, 15 to 11, at the stripe. The ‘Birds also out-shot the hosts from beyond the 3-points arc, 8-3, on the night.
Meyers buried four treys on her way to a game-high 18 points to lead Darlington. Mathias tallied 16 points, while junior Casey Glendenning scored all 13 of her points off the bench in the second half for the Redbirds.
Senior Kennedy Rankin added seven of her nine points in the second half for the ‘Birds, while McDonald and Golackson chipped in with five points apiece.
“(Kaylee, Kathleen and Kennedy) are a force to be reckon with on both ends of the court. Their understanding of the game on offense and defense makes them great leaders on the court,” commented McMullen. “The depth of our bench is why we are able to be as successful as we are. We constantly have fresh legs to push the ball and produce offensively, along with smart players who can play multiple positions defensively. The girls played for each other and made a lot of selfless choices, which in the end resulted in a strong game top to bottom.”
Junior McKenna Reichling was the lone Pointer in double figures with 15 points. Senior Malorie Johnson added nine points for the hosts.
Darlington has a SWAL game at Southwestern (3-11, 1-7) on Friday, Jan. 26, and the Redbirds return home to host Shullsburg (13-2) in a non-conference clash on Monday, Jan. 29.
Darlington………… 34 35 – 69
Mineral Point…….. 27 24 – 51
Darlington – Bethany McDonald 5, Casey Glendenning 13, Kathleen Mathias 16, Reagan Crist 3, Chelsie Golackson 5, Kennedy Rankin 9, Kaylee Meyers 18. Totals – 23 15-18 69.
Mineral Point– N. Johnson 2, Lindsey 4, Aschlimann 2, James 6, M. Johnson 9, Murphy 1, Reichling 15, Ross 2, Schmitz 4, Kinch 6. Totals – 18 12-17 51.
3-point goals– D 8 (McDonald 1, Casey Glendenning 1, Golackson 1, Rankin 1, Meyers 4), MP 3 (Lindsey 1, Reichling 1, Kinch 1). Total fouls– D 22, MP 17. Fouled out– D: Mathias, Meyers; MP: Reichling.