dBy Josh Brown
Troy Daily News
PLEASANT HILL — Morgan Haney picked the right time to heat up.
Miami East’s senior point guard, who hit the 1,000-point mark for her career earlier this season and broke the school’s single-game scoring record with a 34-point night Monday at Urbana, poured in a game-high 28 points Thursday night against Cross County Conference rival Newton, leading the Vikings past the Indians 68-35 and ensuring the defending league champions control their own destiny heading into the two biggest CCC matchups of the season.
“I think it’s really cool,” Haney said of setting the single-game scoring record this week. “Missing my entire sophomore year, I didn’t really know what my future held. After that, I decided to just have fun and play how I know I can play. I wasn’t necessarily shooting for that record. It just came. But I’m pretty excited about it.”
The win was a critical one for the Vikings, too, as they improved to 11-4 overall and 7-1 in the CCC heading into Saturday’s showdown against the current league leader Tri-Village, which improved to 7-0 in conference play with Thursday’s win over Covington.
And Haney’s big night came despite the fact that Newton (5-8, 3-4 CCC) ran a box-and-one defense with her as its focus.
“That says a lot about her,” Miami East coach Bruce Vanover said. “We talk about it all the time, that Morgan is going to see some box-and-ones, and sometimes with Camryn (Miller), they go triangle-and-two. So we talk about how the other players need to knock down some shots early to loosen it up a bit. And tonight, Morgan was still making some shots, but we got some transition shots and loosened it up a bit, and Morgan just went to work. And the girls do a great job of finding her when she’s open.”
Seventeen of Haney’s 28 points came in the first half as the Vikings led 23-6 after the first quarter and 43-16 at the break, with the majority of those coming in transition off of the Indians’ 18 first-half turnovers. Four straight buckets in transition, one by Whitley Gross, one by Maria Staton and two more by Haney, including one at the buzzer, ballooned what was already a commanding lead into an insurmountable one.
And while the Vikings were forcing mistake after mistake, they gave nothing back in return, committing zero first-half turnovers and winning the turnover battle on the night 27-4.
“We had zero turnovers at half, and we talked about how impressive that was,” Vanover said. “When we came in, we felt like transition was huge for us. We had to force some turnovers and get out in transition. They (Newton) played Milton the other day and played them tough, so we knew they could compete and put the ball in the hole, so we wanted to force some turnovers and push the ball up and down the floor a little bit.”
“I’ve just got two things to say — 18 turnovers in the first half to their none, and we didn’t rebound the basketball,” Newton coach Steve Fisher said. “If you really look at it, they did not score much off of our half-court defense. They scored in transition, they scored off of our turnovers and they scored on second-chance points. That was basically how we got behind.
“Right now, we are not fundamentally sound enough, not where we need to be. We have trouble running any kind of set offense because we do not take care of the basketball well enough. You can’t play with 18 turnovers in the first half and expect to be in a game. Haney’s a really good player. I though our diamond-and-one did a good job on her, but she got so many points in transition, and we just didn’t perform. Getting back on defense has been an issue for us.”
The Indians didn’t give up, though, trimming into the Vikings’ lead in the third quarter but still trailing 54-30 going into the fourth, and Miami East’s defense played well again in the final quarter to seal the game.
“We just can’t have a third quarter like that,” Vanover said. “I feel like we got a little complacent, and they made some nice adjustments and got to the bucket a little more, and with us having some fouls in the first half, we were trying to pull our hands back and not be aggressive. Credit to them for making adjustments, but we’ve just got to do a better job of maintaining that intensity from the first half.”
Haney added five assists and eight steals to her 28 points for the Vikings, Miller finished with nine points, Paxton Hunley and Staton each had eight points, Rori Hunley scored five, Cadence Gross had four and Whitley Gross, Lauren Wright and Emily Adkins each had two.
Mallory Dunevy led the Indians with 10 points and seven rebounds, Ally Weaver scored eight points, Brooke Deeter had six points and seven rebounds, Michaela Kirk and Jaden Stine each had three points, Maddie Hildebrand and Kaisey Heisey each chipped in two and Camryn Gleason scored one.
And while Newton travels to National Trail Saturday, the Vikings will host CCC leader Tri-Village in their biggest game of the season.
“Following up a 12-0 year last year with what we’re doing and all we graduated, I think the girls are doing a nice job,” Vanover said. “We’ve got some young kids playing well and Morgan kind of facilitating and bringing this group together, and it’s been pretty fun.”
“I’m confident,” Haney said. “The last couple games, our girls have been knocking down shots. We struggled a little bit earlier in the season, but I have faith in my team and I feel like we’ll step it up when we need to pull it out in these tough games. I’m confident we’ll compete well.”
Josh Brown is the Sports Editor of the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.