By Rob Kiser
SPRINGFIELD — The Miami East girls basketball team may not have liked the final result in a 44-39 loss to Bethel-Tate in the Division III district final Saturday at Springfield High School.
But the Vikings had a lot to be proud of as their season came to an end with a 17-9 record.
After getting down 29-14 at half, East came all the way back to tie the game with 5:35 to go, before suffering a close loss to a very good team.
“I couldn’t be proud prouder of these girls,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “No matter what we ask of them, they are able to find a way to do it.”
Miami East found itself in that situation after Bethel-Tate came out on fire — bombing in five 3-pointers to take a 29-14 halftime lead.
“You talk about shooting the ball,” Vanover said. “That was our plan — to make them shoot from out there — and they hit five 3s in the first half. We tried about everything on defense. We finally settled on the 1-3-1.”
That changed things instantly in the third quarter.
Morgan Haney was consistently able to disrupt the Tigers’ passes and Bailey Miller hit three straight 3s to open the second half to quickly get East back in the game.
East held Bethel-Tate scoreless the first six minutes of the second half, and a basket by Megan Thompson got East within 35-29 going to the fourth quarter. Bethel-Tate guard Julia Jenike, a Florida Gulf Coast signee, hit two 3s late in the third quarter for the Tigers’ only points in the period.
“The girls did a great job on defense,” Vanover said. “Bailey Miller got hot and then we started actually working the ball inside — which we didn’t do in the first half.”
Thompson started the fourth quarter with a basket, Haley Howard scored off an offensive rebound by Kati Runner and Kyndall Hellyer tied it at 35 on a short jumper with 5:35 to go.
But Jenike answered with a 3-pointer from the corner, and Miami East scored only four points the rest of the way.
“You do use a lot of energy (coming back),” Vanover said. “Your legs get a little heavy. And you get back into doing some of the things that were hurting you in the first half.”
The Tigers made six of seven free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
“We had to foul them,” Vanover said. “And I will tell you, we missed a lot of opportunities from the line today. We had to get our rebounding settled down at halftime. We held them to three field goals in the second half. You can’t do much better than that.”
Haney had 10 points and five rebounds for East, while Miller had nine points.
Hellyer had seven points and six rebounds, Thompson scored seven and Howard added six points.
Jenike had 25 points and eight rebounds for the Tigers. Haylee Foster scored 12 points, Allison Parks had seven and Paige Gear grabbed seven rebounds.
East was 15 of 48 from the floor for 31 percent and just four of 13 from the line fr 31 percent.
Bethel-Tate was 14 of 37 from the floor for 38 percent and eight of 11 from the line for 73 percent.
The Tigers won the battle of the boards 28-23 and had nine turnovers to East’s seven.
“I don’t want the kids to like this feeling,” Vanover said. “I don’t think anybody thought we would make the sectional finals last year and make the district finals this year. We want to come back next year and win the district title.”
And raise the bar even higher.
Miami East (39)
Morgan Haney 3-3-10, Megan Thompson 3-0-7, Kyndall Hellyer 3-1-7, Megan Kinnison 0-0-0, Haley Howard 3-0-6, Bailey Miller 3-0-9, Amber Kinnison 0-0-0, Kati Runner 0-0-0. Totals: 15-4-39.
Paige Gear 0-0-0, Morgan Reinhart 0-0-0, Julia Jenike 8-4-25, Haylee Foster 4-2-12, Allison Parks 2-2-7, Reagan Leonard 0-0-0. Totals: 14-8-44.
3-point field goals — Miami East: Haney, Thompson, Miller (3). Bethel-Tate: Jenike (5), Foster (2), Parks.
Score By Quarters
Miami East 10 14 29 39
Bethel-Tate 18 29 35 44
Records: Miami East 17-9, Bethel-Tate 19-7.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.