The Vandalia Community High School girls basketball team opened up the season with a strong defensive effort, defeating Altamont, 54-37, on the road.
A year after finishing 17-12, the Lady Vandals were motivated to continue their second-half success. Something head coach Michelle McNary attributes to an improved defense, which was on display in the season opener.
“That’s something we have talked about. Our defense is what I thought won some games for us late in the year last year. We had to continue that going into this year,” McNary said. “I thought the girls, overall, did a nice job. We had a couple of breakdowns where our help side didn’t drop but for the most part they did a really good job defensively.“
The Lady Vandals came out to a quick 4-0 lead, with baskets from seniors Karlie Bright and Makayla Tinker. It was Bright’s first action since breaking her leg last season and she didn’t disappoint, scoring six first-quarter points.
Altamont was able to keep it close, scoring consecutive baskets in the paint to end the first quarter, trailing 12-11.
However, the Lady Vandals defense stepped it up in the second quarter. Two quick baskets in transition from Bright and Tinker, followed by a Tinker free throw, pushed the Vandals ahead, 17-11.
Tinker led the way offensively in the second quarter, knocking down a three-pointer with less than two minutes in the half to help Vandalia take a commanding 28-13 lead.
Altamont managed only four pints in the second quarter, as they went into halftime trailing 32-15.
The Lady Vandals didn’t slow down in the second half, as Tinker knocked down a mid-range jumper on their first possession. Madelyn Hosick came alive in the third, scoring six points to help the Lady Vandals maintain a 46-29 advantage going into the fourth.
Bright and sophomore Olivia Marquardt kicked off the fourth quarter with back-to-back short-range jump shots to give the Lady Vandals a 50-29 advantage, their biggest lead of the game.
From there, Vandalia held on as they chewed up as much of the clock as they could, en route to the 54-37 victory.
McNary was happy with the season-opening effort, but thought the team could have been more efficient on offense, something she realizes isn’t new for the Lady Vandals.
“You know, I’ll take whatever baskets we can get. We’re never a very good shooting team. I’m hoping this year starts to get a little better,” McNary said. “But I’ll take it. First-game jitters and everybody is nervous a little bit so hopefully next game, our shooting will get a little bit better.“
Bright and Tinker each finished with a team-high 13 points. Other contributors were Hosick, with 12 points; Marquardt, with six points; Madison Klanke, with six points; and Leah Francis, with four points.
The Lady Vandals will look to carry the momentum into this weekend, as they enter the Litchfield tournament this Saturday with a matchup versus Nokomis at 7:30 p.m.
McNary believes her team will be ready for the tournament as long as they continue to display the same effort they did Tuesday night.
“(We need to) Just keeping working hard. If we work hard on the defensive end, good things will happen for us on the offensive end.”