DARLINGTON — With head coach Kelly Rose taking leave from the team to give birth to her first child, her Darlington Redbirds girls’ basketball team picked up a key victory over Boscobel to keep pace atop the SWAL heading into Tuesday’s showdown in Cuba City.
The Lady Redbirds (8-3 overall, 5-0 SWAL) outscored the visiting Bulldogs 35-5 during an 11 and a half minute span from the end of the first half through the beginning of the second half to turn a five-point deficit into a 25-point lead, and then held on to remain unbeaten in the SWAL by posting a 79-53 victory under the direction of assistant coach Mariah McMullen at DHS on Thursday, Jan. 4.
“We were hoping to get things rolling heading into next week’s meeting with Cuba City. With me being a new head coach, just gelling with the girls and getting a win under our belts before moving forward in conference play was valuable,” said McMullen after earning her first career varsity win. “Coach had her baby, and mom and baby are healthy, so this one was for them. The girls were pretty excited to win it for them.”
Darlington bolted out to a 7-0 lead just minutes into the game, but the Bulldogs (7-2, 3-2) came firing back with three 3-pointers from junior guard Leah Wacker to grab a 20-15 advantage with just over five minutes to play in the half.
The Redbirds fought back to tie the game at 20 all on a 3-point play and a steal-and-layup by senior Kennedy Rankin, and then built up a 29-23 lead on a pair of baskets by junior guard Bethany McDonald and two free throws from junior Casey Glendenning with 1:28 to go.
The Bulldogs pulled back within four on a pair of free throws by Treena Knowles, but the ‘Birds swung the momentum well in their favor in the closing moments of the half with McDonald and senior Meghan Douglas burying back-to-back treys in the final 11 seconds of the half to send the energized hosts into the locker room sporting a 35-25 advantage.
“We’ve been talking about the whole team camaraderie, getting excited about the little things and using that to fuel us forward, so that excitement at the end of the half was something we’ve been working on,” explained McMullen.
The Redbirds opened the second half much the same way they ended the first, reeling off 15 unanswered points over the first six minutes of the period to increase their lead 50-25 over the Bulldogs. Junior guard Kaylee Meyers sank two 3s and added a coast-to-coast layup following a steal, while Douglas and junior Kathleen Mathias added baskets in transition to help pump the lead up to 25 points.
“Staying grounded in what we know we can do was important. Not coming out of our 1-3-1 defense, staying with our motion offense and trusting in what we were doing and knowing that, hopefully, they weren’t going to stay hot all game long were key,” noted McMullen.
The ‘Birds went off on another 12-0 run later in the half to increase their lead to 64-34, and then coasted to a 79-53 win.
Meyers poured in 18 of her game-high 21 points in the second half to lead four players in double figures for the Redbirds. Rankin chipped in with 11 points, while Glendenning and junior Reagan Crist added 10 points apiece off the bench. Crist is the eight Redbird this season to reach double figures in a game.
McDonald and Mathias each netted eight points, and Douglas scored seven to aid Darlington’s balanced attack.
Wacker scored 13 of her 19 points in the first half to keep the Bulldogs in the game early, while Knowles tallied 10 of her 12 points in the second half for the guests.
“We knew going into the second half that Wacker was who we were going to have to contain. We did a good job of that,” McMullen said.
The Redbirds traveled to Cuba City on Tuesday night with first-place in the SWAL on the line against the co-leading Cubans (9-2, 5-0). The results of that game were not available at press time.
Darlington will host Iowa-Grant in SWAL action on Friday, Jan. 12.
Boscobel……… 25 28 – 53
Darlington…….. 35 44 – 79
Boscobel – Grassel 2, Davis 9, Newton 2, Ernst 4, Beck 5, Wacker 19, Knowles 12. Totals – 16 18-26 53.
Darlington – Bethany McDonald 8, Meghan Douglas 7, Casey Glendenning 10, Kathleen Mathias 8, Reagan Crist 10, Chelsie Golackson 4, Kennedy Rankin 11, Kaylee Meyers 21. Totals – 31 9-17 79.
3-point goals– IG 3 (Wacker 3), F 8 (Be. McDonald 2, Douglas 1, R. Crist 1, Golackson 1, Meyers 3). Total fouls– IG 20, D 23. Fouled out– D: Mathias.