UNION CITY – After clinging to a four-point halftime lead, Ansonia clamped down on defense in the second half Saturday evening and pulled away to beat Mississinawa Valley 55-41.
Mississinawa Valley found success in the first half going inside but couldn’t replicate that formula in the second half as Ansonia switched up its defense and stifled the Lady Hawks.
“We switched up a little bit on our man,” Ansonia girls basketball coach Jim Bolin said. “We went to a 3-2, and then we switched back to a man. We just kept switching defenses, and that seemed to work for us OK. Plus I told them I want a little bit more intensity on the defensive end, try to get in the passing lanes a little bit and keep the ball out of the middle. I don’t think (Kelsie) Hunt did much the second half.”
Ansonia led throughout Saturday’s game but couldn’t cushion its lead much in the first two quarters even though the Tigers were getting more rebounds and forcing turnovers. When Mississinawa Valley did get the ball down the court, it went inside with Leslie Dirksen scoring 10 first half points and Kelsie Hunt adding six.
With the effective play down low, Mississinawa Valley cut a 17-12 first quarter deficit down to 32-28 at halftime.
But after the intermission, Ansonia shut down Mississinawa’s offense. The Tigers held the Hawks to just four points in the third quarter as they pushed their lead to double digits, 42-32.
Ansonia led by as many as 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Tigers continued their second half domination on their way to the 55-41 win.
“We just had a good team win tonight,” Bolin said. “Things are starting to click for us pretty good right now.”
Despite suffering the loss, Mississinawa Valley coach John Hershey saw some progress from his team.
“We’re slowly bringing things together,” he said. “Tonight wasn’t a bad night. They did a lot of things real well. We definitely played them a lot better than we did last game. I’m optimistic.”
Among the things Hershey wanted to accomplish Saturday was limiting Ansonia’s leading scorer, Brooke Neal. The Hawks did that, however, Ansonia found other players to step up.
“First half I tried to make sure and shut the Neal girl down,” Hershey said. “And I think the second half they came out and figured out other ways of scoring without her.”
Ansonia’s offense was led by Abby Helmke, who scored a game-high 22 points. Also for the Tigers, Bailey Stammen scored 14 points, Neal scored nine, Jailyn Thwaits scored seven, Stefani Garrett scored two, and Ashton Bradham scored one.
“That’s what we’ve been looking for all year,” Bolin said. “I thought when the season started we’d have five kids in double figures. We’re just starting to get to that point now. Abby, she was injured at the beginning of the year just like last year. She’s finally getting back to where she should be, and she had a nice ball game for us tonight.”
Dirksen led Mississinawa Valley with 10 points in the loss, all of which came in the first half. Also for the Hawks, Mikayla Stump scored nine points, Kelsie Hunt scored eight, Kylie Willis scored seven, Elizabeth Allen scored four, Olivia Murphy scored two, and Madison Stachler scored one.
Ansonia improved to 7-6 with the win, and Mississinawa Valley fell to 3-10.
Ansonia will play at Hagerstown, Indiana, on Monday while MV will play host to Arcanum on Thursday.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.