Success has not gone to the Lady Vandals’ heads.
In fact, some members of the VCHS girls basketball team may be oblivious to the fact that they are on the verge making history.
‘Some of them probably don’t even know what our record is,’ said Lady Vandals coach Mike Butler, whose team is closing in on the program’s all-time victories mark.
‘They just come to play hard every night.’
And by doing so again on Monday night, the Lady Vandals (19-3, 6-1) moved one victory closer to the 1992-93 team’s program-record 21 wins with a surprisingly lopsided 61-41 pasting of visiting Litchfield.
The key to the Lady Vandals’ success against the Purple Panthers was clear to anyone within 100 feet of Litchfield’s bench.
Coach Bob Allen lamented his team’s rebounding effort in a highly audible fashion throughout the second half – and for good reason.
Vandalia finished with a 28-17 rebounding advantage for the night, a figure that was actually skewed in the Panthers’ favor long after the outcome of the game was decided.
At the time the Lady Vandals broke the game wide open midway through the third quarter, they held a 20-6 rebounding advantage, including a 9-1 margin on the offensive glass.
‘They tried to play a fast-paced game, and they took a lot to shots,’ Butler said. ‘You’ve got to be ready to rebound, and we did a good job of that. When you limit a team to one shot, that gives you a big advantage.’
Couple Vandalia’s rebounding advantage with a big night by Cassie Warner, and the Panthers (13-9) simply had no chance.
Warner was on fire from the start, scoring five points during a 9-0 Vandalia run to start the game.
Litchfield bounced back to take a brief 21-19 second-quarter lead on a Jordan Smith 3-pointer, but Warner countered with a bucket to tie the game before putting the Lady Vandals up to stay with a transition bucket off a turnover forced by Ashley Durbin.
The Lady Vandals would go on to score the final nine points of the first half, taking a 28-21 lead into the lockerroom. They then scored the first six points of the second half to open up a 13-point advantage.
Warner was right in the middle of it again, scoring VCHS’s first basket in transition off a Panthers turnover before finding a cutting Laura Hobbie for a bucket that extended Vandalia’s lead to double digits.
She then came up with an offensive rebound that preceded a Julianna Banal jumper that capped a 15-0 Vandalia run.
Warner finished with a season-high 22 points and eight rebounds on the night.
‘Any given night, she can do that,’ Butler said. ‘She’s also an excellent passer and ball-handler against pressure. She’s a big part of this team.’
The Lady Vandals were able to overcome 21 turnovers by forcing a frustrated Litchfield team into 25 giveaways.
Shelby Cearlock set the tone defensively, coming away with six steals, to go along with 15 points and three rebounds.
Walton added 11 points, while Hobbie went for 10 points and eight rebounds. Durbin, Emily Shields and Kayla Houston all played well off the bench in a true team effort.
‘We did a lot good things tonight, and I thought a couple people stepped up for us big time,’ Butler said. ‘It’s not the same person every night. That’s kind of the way this team’s gone.’
The Lady Vandals hope to have similar results Wednesday night, as they will face the Panthers once again. VCHS will travel to Litchfield for a makeup game before heading to Pana Thursday for a showdown between the SCC-East’s top two teams.
The Lady Vandals fell to the Lady Panthers (21-3) earlier this season.
Kris Stunkel scored what would prove to be the game-winning bucket at the 3 1/2-minute mark of the fourth quarter, as the Lady Vandals came away with a 44-41 win over the Panthers.
Tori Hagy added a pair of insurance free throws for Vandalia with eight seconds to go moments after Stunkel grabbed a big defensive rebound.
Kayla Houston led Vandalia with 12 points, while Hagy added 11. Rachel Hickerson and Brittney Bennett chipped in six and five points, respectively, while Stunkel and Audra Donaldson had four points apiece. Amy Walton rounded out the Lady Vandals’ scoring with two points.
Litchfield 13 8 8 12 – 41
Vandalia 16 12 14 19 – 61
Vandalia scoring – Banal 1-3 0-0 2, Cearlock 4-13 4-4 15, Durbin 0-0 0-0 0, Hobbie 5-7 0-1 10, Shields 0-0 1-2 1, Walton 5-12 1-2 11, Warner 10-17 2-4 22. Totals 25-52 8-13
Litchfield scoring – Smith 5 3-3 16, Jant 0 6-10 6, Draggo 4 1-1 10, Lucker 1 0-0 2, Glover 2 0-0 4, Hall 1 0-0 3. Totals 13 10-14 41.
3-point goals – Litchfield 5 (Smith 3, Dragoo, Hall), Vandalia 3 (Cearlock 3). Rebounds – Vandalia 28 (Warner 8, Hobbie 8), Litchfield 17. Turnovers – Litchfield 25, Vandalia 21. Records – Vandalia is 19-3, 6-1; Litchfield is 13-9.