In a game that was almost canceled after the tragic death of a sophomore student last Tuesday, the Vandalia High School girls basketball team provided students a few hours of distraction on Friday by dismantling Roxana, 54-33, in its season-opener.
Discussion of calling off the game had been ongoing since Wednesday, but players came to coach Michelle McNary and insisted the game be played in Tammy Vosholler’s honor.
“It was good for everyone to come out and get their minds off of the tragedy that happened in school this week,” McNary said. “I knew we were playing with some heavy hearts, but we had to leave it in the locker room and come out and play.
“They are the ones who wanted to play this game. We talked about canceling it, and they came to me and said, ‘Coach, we really want to play and dedicate this game to Tammy.’”
An emotional moment of silence was held in Vosholler’s honor before tipoff.
But once the game started, there was plenty to cheer about, as the Vandals consistently created their own offense by scoring points off steals, offensive rebounds and after gaining possession off of jump balls.
Sophomore Amber Bruno opened the game by stealing the ball and scoring on two of Roxana’s first three possessions to give Vandalia a 4-0 lead. Bruno had four steals and nine points in the victory.
By the end of the first period, four Vandals had combined to score 16 points, and the team had grabbed 11 rebounds against an unusual defensive formation.
“Early, I wasn’t sure what defense they were in, but we were still getting offensive boards, so it was great to push them out and rebound,” McNary said.
In the first half, Vandalia had four second-chance points off of six offensive rebounds. McNary said offensive rebounding was one of the team’s biggest problems last season, and seeing improvement was one of the most positive aspects of the game.
More importantly, the Vandals did not allow Roxana any single-chance points in the game.
“We did a nice job keeping them off the boards,” McNary said. “I hope it continues to the next game, because if we can do that, we will be in a lot of games and will win some big games.”
The key to the continuation of Vandalia’s rebounding efforts likely will be junior Hannah Edwards. At 6 feet tall, Edwards is the tallest player on the team, and McNary believes she has a lot of upside in her second year as a varsity player.
Edwards was the leading scorer against Roxana with 13 points – 11 of which came during the second half – and her nine rebounds were second-best, trailing senior Megan Shreve’s 11.
McNary said Edwards was a little apprehensive when it came to playing aggressively last season, but Edwards fought hard in the paint for rebounds and shooting space throughout the game on Thursday.
“She was frustrated early, because (Roxana players) were collasping on her and not giving her much room (in the paint),” McNary said. “But the biggest thing with her is confidence, and hopefully this game will get her going in the right direction.”
The girls faced South Central on Tuesday, but that game was not completed at press time. On Monday, Vandalia hosts Marquette Catholic at 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 19
Points – Edwards, 11; Walton, 10; Bruno, 9; Wollerman, 8; Morgan Whightsil, 6; Shreve, 4; Morgan Cripe, 2; Megan Godoyo, 2.
Rebounds – Shreve, 11; Edwards, 9; Godoyo, 6; Wollerman, 5; Whightsil, 4; Walton, 3; Bruno, 2; Cripe, 2; Abby Hickerson, 2; Haley Cothern, 1
Vandalia’s JV team fought to the finish against Roxana, staving off a Shells comeback to secure a 42-41 victory after the Shells’ attempted buzzer-beater did not fall.
The Vandals had held as much as an eight-point lead, but Roxana tied the score at 29 midway through the third period.
The Shells did hold a couple brief leads in the fourth quarter, but the Vandals proved to be too much in the end.
Friday, Nov. 19
Points – Kaitlyn Kershaw, 11; Cripe, 9; Godoyo, 9; Hickerson, 6; Cothern, 3; Abby Dugan, 2; Randi Evans, 2.