BURLINGTON — With the stakes high, Van Buren County High School girls basketball coach Matt Zeitler reached into the way-back machine.
There was nothing archaic about the Warriors’ defense, but it certainly was dominating.
The Warriors defended Notre Dame with a variety of zone defenses and forced plenty of long-range shots, and sixth-ranked (Class 2A) Van Buren County rolled to a 53-25 SEI Superconference South Division win over the ninth-ranked (1A) Nikes Tuesday at Father Minett Gymnasium.
Van Buren County (18-3, 14-1 division) and Notre Dame each have a loss in divisional play, but a second loss to the Nikes would’ve crippled the Warriors’ divisional title hopes.
“We played a 2-1-2, which these girls haven’t played since they were freshmen,” Zeitler said. “Holding that team to 25 points is pretty good. We did a great job defensively, and when we can control the game that way, we’re pretty stout.”
The Warriors finally had guard Isabel Manning back at full strength and she made a different, scoring 13 first-quarter points as the Warriors jumped out to a 10-point lead. While Manning was hot in the first half, Taryn Scheuermann was in the second, scoring 14 of her game-high 22 points in the final 16 minutes.
“My teammates made some amazing passes to get me open, and I couldn’t have done it without them,” said Manning, who’d battled the flu and wasn’t 100 percent for several games. “Our defense tonight worked really well. We were all working together out there.”
The Nikes (16-3, 13-1), who beat the Warriors 43-39 in the first game of the new year, was no match in this contest. Notre Dame couldn’t penetrate the lane against the Warriors’ zone, and had to take plenty of perimeter shots. When they didn’t fall, the Warriors often rebounded and fed their fast break.
“We rebounded pretty good tonight,” Zeitler said. “Taryn really went after the ball. Isabel had been going into the fourth quarter, but her immune system couldn’t take it and she’s run out of gas. Notre Dame is a good team, but we knew it was time to go this game.”
Notre Dame was without leading scorer Katy Stephens because of the flu, and the Nikes struggled most of the game finding any offense. They trailed 35-17 at halftime, and didn’t surpass 20 points until 2 1/2 minutes into the fourth quarter on a free throw by Gabby Deery.
Scheuermann and Manning scored 19 of Van Buren County’s 27 points in the second half. Scheuermann also pulled down 15 rebounds and had four blocked shots.
“We kind of used our last three games to get ready for this one,” Manning said. “We tried some different things.”
The Warriors were playing their fourth game in five days, and he juggled the lineup over the last three games to make sure his team was well-rested for the Nikes.
“We played 14 kids on Monday (against Danville),” he said. “It was all about keeping them fresh.”
Van Buren County hosts New London to finish the regular season Monday.