By Rob Kiser
PITSBURG — The way Miami East girls basketball coach Bruce Vanover sees it, his Lady Vikings won a tournament within a tournament — and he couldn’t be prouder.
The Lady Vikings improved to 13-11 with a 41-27 win over Dayton Christian in the Franklin Monroe D-III sectional Tuesday — with the reward being an 11 a.m. game Saturday in the sectional final against state-ranked Versailles, 21-3.
“I don’t know how many years in a row Miami East has been to the sectional finals,” Vanover said. “I know we have made it all three years I have been here. Obviously we are facing a tough test Saturday, but the way I look at it is we are there with the opportunity.”
And who would have thought that when one returning starter elected not to play and standout point guard Morgan Haney tore her ACL in the preseason.
“Our goal was a .500 season,” Vanover said. “We had to win our last four games to do that (11-11). Now we have won six in a row. I am so proud of these girls. And you have to give Gabrielle (Hawkins) a lot of credit of stepping into the point guard role (as a freshman). We have won 13 games now with her at the point.”
And the Lady Vikings showed their poise in the second half.
It looked like Miami East was on its way to an easy win after taking a 26-13 lead midway through the third quarter.
But, Camryn Collinsworth hit two threes and Abby Erisman scored off an offensive rebound to cap a 12-0 Dayton Christian run and cut the Vikings lead to 26-25 with 6:40 remaining in the game.
“I have to give coach (Kevin) Gump a lot of credit,” Vanover said. “When you play a 1-2-2 you are going to give up some threes sometimes. I am usually not real patient and want to change things and he told me to stick with it.”
Haley Howard, who finished with 19 points, 18 rebounds and three blocked shots started a 15-2 run by East to finish the game and the Vikings quickly regained control.
“I give the girls credit,” Vanover said. “There was no panic. Haley (Howard) put up very similar numbers against Dayton Christian in the regular season. She is a girl who just loves to play basketball and works hard.”
Bailey Miller was 3-for-3 in the fourth quarter, picked up some big baskets down the stretch and finished with 13 points.
“I keep telling people, Bailey (Miller) is going to get going,” Vanover said. “That is the kind of player she is. What did she have, five points at halftime — and all of a sudden she gets a quick eight.”
With East leading 34-27 with just over three minutes reamaining, Kaitlyn Mack put the lid on the Dayton Christian coffin with a big three.
“I didn’t see the shot because I was talking to coach Gump,” Vanover said. “I asked who hit that and he told me Kaitlyn (Mack). She just brings so much energy to the floor. I love to watch her play defense — she sets her hands on so many passes. Defense is usually where she is making things happen.”
With Howard scoring 11 in the opening half, East had taken an 18-10 lead at the break before DC rallied — and gave the Vikings a chance to show what they were made of down the stretch.
Collinsworth led Dayton Christian with nine points and seven rebounds, while Taylor Marshall also grabbed seven rebounds.
Miami East was 19 of 51 from the floor for 37 percent, but made just one of five free throws for 20 percent.
Dayton Christian was 10 of 49 from the floor for 20 percent and was three of four from the line for 75 percent.
Miami East won the battle of the boards 35-29 and had 10 turnovers to Dayton Christian’s 17.
“This is my third straight sectional final — and last year we won the thing,” Vanover said about Saturdaqy’s game. “Anything can happen.”
And the Lady Vikings have earned the right to prove it.
Miami East (41)
Bailey Miller 6-0-13, Gabrielle Hawkins 0-0-0, Emily Hawkins 0-0-0, Amber Kinnison 0-0-0, Haley Howard 9-1-19, Camryn Miller 2-0-4, Kaitlyn Mack 1-0-3, Sage Hunley 0-0-0, Maria Staton 1-0-2. Totals: 19-1-41.
Dayton Christian (27)
Marin Reis 1-2-5, Maggie Zephernick 0-0-0, Morgan Orme 1-0-2, Abby Erisman 2-1-5, Camryn Collinsworth 3-0-9, Kristin Carnegis 1-0-2, Taylor Marshall 1-0-2, Lexi Marshall 1-0-2, Victoria Swearingen 0-0-0. Totals: 10-3-27.
3-point field goals — Miami East: Bailey Miller, Mack. Dayton Christian: Reis, Collinsworth (3).
Score By Quarters
Miami East 7 18 26 41
Dayton Christian 5 10 20 27
Records: Miami East 13-11.