By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — Miami East girls basketball coach Bruce Vanover didn’t just remember last year’s matchup against rival Newton — a come-from-behind overtime win by the Indians.
But Thursday night, his Vikings helped alleviate three years of painful memories.
After a back-and-fourth first quarter and a half, Miami East (10-3, 6-0 Cross County Conference) finally was able to get some separation right before halftime and just continued to build on that lead from there, shutting down Newton’s potent offense by forcing 20 turnovers and knocking down open shots on its own end in the second half to pull away for a 54-41 victory Thursday night at home.
“Three years ago, we lost by 18. Then we lost by five. And then we lost by two in overtime. Those are just some numbers I have in my head,” he said. “Last year, Tatum (McBride) hit a shot with no time on the clock to put it into overtime, and we lost it in overtime. So it was nice to come out and get the win tonight. This is the first time I’ve beaten Newton since I came to East.”
It proved to be an important victory for the Vikings, too.
The win kept Miami East unbeaten in CCC play heading into a Jan. 11 matchup at defending champion Tri-Village — which also stayed undefeated in league play at 6-0 after a 52-42 victory over Covington on Thursday. Newton, meanwhile, fell to 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the CCC.
“We’ve just got to get ourselves set and ready to beat a good team,” Newton coach Steve Fisher said. “Right now, we’re 7-4. We’ve played four really good teams, and those are the four we’ve lost. We only trailed by five at the half, had a poor third quarter and gave up 18 and got outscored 35-24 in the second half. I thought we played slow tonight defensively, did not play active, and we didn’t want to give up second-chance points — but we did.”
“Newton’s been playing well,” Vanover said. “They were 7-3 coming in, and we knew we were going to have to play well.”
The Indians held East’s leading scorer Morgan Haney — who didn’t play in last year’s meeting, missing the entire season with an injury — scoreless for the majority of the first half. But the Vikings were equally tough on Newton’s McBride and held a 14-13 lead in the middle of the second quarter. Haney finally got going in the final minute of the first half, though, hitting a jumper with 40 seconds left to make it a three-point game and, after a Newton free throw, hitting a late 3 to make it 19-14 at the break.
“I felt like we controlled Haney and (Haley) Howard pretty well,” Fisher said. “We felt like we did all of those things defensively that we wanted to do. But we only had 12 shots at halftime. We were 5 for 12 from the field. We just did not take care of the basketball in the first half, and in the second half we played slow defensively and let them take control of the game.”
After an Anna Wolfe putback got Newton back to within five at 23-18 in the third quarter, the Vikings went on a decisive 9-0 run. Bailey Miller — who had five assists in the game — hit Camryn Miller for a bucket inside, then a Kaitlyn Mack steal led to a Camryn Miller jumper. Bailey Miller hit a 3 after another Newton turnover, and Haney hit Mack for a fast-break finish after yet another Indian turnover, and the Vikings led 32-18 in a blink. From there, Newton never recovered.
“It was 19-14 at the half, and (assistant) coach (Kevin) Gump made a heck of an adjustment with Morgan, moving her down to the corner. That opened us up,” Vanover said. “(Newton) was running its 1-2-2 really flat at the top, and Morgan, being a penetrator, that takes away from that. We tried to get her down where we could open her up a bit, and that got us clicking.
“What impressed us most was how we were shooting about 40 percent at halftime, and then we finished 23 for 45 (51 percent for the game. That’s how well we shot in the second half. That’s huge. And defensively, we did a nice job most of the night.”
Haney led the Vikings with 13 points and Camryn Miller added 12, with both hitting two of the Vikings’ six 3-pointers on the night. And Howard was big inside, posting a double-double with 10 points — eight in the second half — and 11 rebounds. Mack added nine points, Bailey Miller had six points and five assists and Anna Jacomet and Maria Staton both scored two.
McBride led all scorers by hitting four 3s and scoring 22 points, including 17 in the second half — but no other Indian reached double figures. Wolfe added eight points and eight rebounds, Brooke Deeter scored four points, Macy Flanary had three points and five rebounds and Maddie Hildebrand and Mallory Dunlevy each scored two points.
Miami East faces Urbana on Monday in one final tuneup before traveling to Tri-Village Jan. 11 to play for the CCC lead. Newton, meanwhile, will look to get back on track Monday at Tri-County North.