Apparently, there is one opponent the VCHS girls basketball team’s defense cannot stop: Mother Nature.
The Lady Vandals (7-0) were hoping to get a chance to extend their season-opening winning streak to eight on the road against SCC-East rival Litchfield Monday, but icy weather forced the postponement of the game.
‘We were kind of disappointed,’ said Lady Vandals coach Mike Butler of the postponement. ‘It’d been nice to have a game tonight and keep the momentum going a little bit.’
Vandalia should have more than enough momentum to outlast the inclement weather, however, as they’re coming off a pair of decisive victories over Hillsboro and Neoga last week.
The Lady Vandals will certainly need it, as they get set to host state-ranked Pana Thursday. But make no mistake – they are ready for the mighty Lady Panthers.
‘I think any time you can play a team ranked that highly in the state, and one of the top players in the state (Olivia Lett), it’s something to look forward to,’ Butler said. ‘It gives us a chance to see how we stack up against a highly-rated team.’
The game will pit the unanimous SCC-East favorite Lady Panthers against the upstart Lady Vandals. And Vandalia has to feel optimistic after it knocked off the conference’s other powerhouse program, Hillsboro, in convincing fashion last Thursday at home, 55-37.
The Lady Vandals blew open a game that was knotted 19-all at halftime with a 16-3 run to start the third quarter. And as has been the case all season, defense was key to Vandalia’s success. The Lady Vandals forced seven turnovers in the third quarter alone, leading to a number of easy transition buckets. They wound up shooting a blistering 70 percent from the field (14 of 20) in the second half, outscoring Hillsboro 36-18.
‘We kind of struggled shooting in the first half, but we came back in the second half and shot well,’ Butler said. ‘Again, I think a big part of that was that our defense got us going.’
The Lady Vandals wound up scoring 23 points off 22 Hiltopper turnovers, overall, with Shelby Cearlock and Julianna Banal setting the tone in the energy department.
Cearlock was outstanding on both ends of the court for the second straight game, scoring a game-high 19 points while grabbing six steals.
Banal also had an excellent all-around game, recording a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, in addition to dishing out a team-high five assists and grabbing three steals.
‘They were both pretty active and got the team going, I think,’ Butler said.
Laura Hobbie added 15 points and two steals for the Lady Vandals.
The host team brought plenty of energy to the floor during the first half, pulling down nine offensive rebounds. But the Lady Vandals couldn’t get their shots to drop, shooting just 9 of 25 from the floor, contributing to a halftime deadlock.
The Lady Vandals’ shots started falling in the second half, however, and they ratcheted up their defensive intensity to suffocating levels, leading to a convincing win over the SCC-East’s top program in recent years.
‘Julianna mentioned this was the first time they had beat Hillsboro since being in high school, so they were pretty excited about it,’ Butler said.
The Hiltoppers did salvage the JV game, however, rolling to a 57-26 win. Kayla Houston led Vandalia with seven points, while Audra Donaldson had six.
Vandalia 43, Neoga 18
The Lady Vandals’ defense held the Lady Indians to just 20 percent shooting from the field (5 for 25), and Neoga finished with more turnovers (29) than field goal attempts.
The biggest key to Vandalia’s defensive success was holding Neoga leading scorer Kayci Will to just eight points on 1 for 6 shooting from the field. The 6-foot-1 senior forward/center came in averaging 15 points per game, but was saddled with foul trouble throughout the game.
The Lady Vandals never got into a rhythm offensively, but thanks to the Lady Indians offensive woes, the outcome of the game was never in doubt.
‘The offense kind of comes and goes at times, but I thought our defense carried us through,’ Butler said. ‘And if you’re going to win at all, you have to win those kind of games.’
Cassie Warner led the way with 13 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals. Hobbie added 10 points and three steals, while Banal had 10 points and six rebounds.
The Lady Vandals also took the JV game, 33-21, moving to 6-1 on the year.
Varsity Box Score
Neoga 2 6 6 4 – 18
Vandalia 8 12 13 10 – 43
Vandalia scoring – Walton 3-9 0-2 6, Cearlock 1-8 1-2 3, Hobbie 4-12 2-2 10, Banal 5-9 0-0 10, Warner 5-8 2-2 13, Shields 0-3 0-0 0, Durbin 0-3 0-0 0, Houston 1-3 0-0 0. Totals 19-56 FG 5-8 FT – 43.