The HRV girls basketball team lost 69-56 to Barlow on Friday night. Please see details in the Wednesday, Jan. 16 edition of the Hood River News.
HRV 45, Sandy 36
HOOD RIVER — The threes simply weren’t falling for HRV shooting guard Lindsay Benjamin on Tuesday. But as any good shooter knows, it doesn’t matter how many shots you make, as long as you make the ones that matter.
And it was the “ones” that fell late in the fourth quarter that helped the HRV girls hold off a late run to bury Sandy 45-36.
Benjamin made four key free-throws down the stretch and finished the game with 16 points to lead the Eagles to their third Mt. Hood Conference win.
“I was impressed with the girls’ ability to maintain their composure late in the game,” coach Tracy Norton said. “So far this season, we have been pretty successful at holding teams from turning late-game runs into wins.”
HRV (3-4, 4-8) put together its third consecutive solid outing against a conference opponent, and has demonstrated that it plans to be around when the state playoffs begin in late February.
“Our plan is to take it one game at a time,” Norton said, after her team established itself as a legitimate playoff contender with its third win in the past five conference games.
“We’re taking things from scouting, videos and what we’ve done against teams the first time to ensure we are prepared for whatever they might throw at us.”
The biggest difference for the Eagles in their midseason revival has been the quickness and court leadership of point guard Becca Meierbachtol, who missed the season’s first five games due to injury. She is one of the fastest guards in the MHC, and has yet to find an opponent that can slow her down.
“Becca has been doing an excellent job of handling the press,” Norton said. “She has the quickness and athletic ability to take anyone on one-on-one, and she can often take on two at a time.”
Meierbachtol scored nine points to go with four rebounds and three assists against Sandy, but Norton pointed to the intangibles like drawing the extra defender and getting into the lane that have contributed most the Eagles’ recent success.
Another player starting to come into her own for HRV is wing Becki Flory, who was all over the court in Tuesday’s win, frustrating Sandy’s guards, and getting in the paint for a multitude of second chances.
Flory finished with 13 points, three rebounds and an assist, but like Meierbachtol, it was the little things she did that helped the Eagles sneak off with a win.
Both teams started slow, managing just 31 points between them in the first half, which ended with a 17-14 HRV lead. The Eagles controlled the tempo by employing the same spread offense that was so effective against Central Catholic on Jan. 3.
The plodding, deliberate strategy of passing the ball around the perimeter for minutes at a time is designed to lull the opponent to sleep, and not allow them to turn the game into a full-court, run-and-gun frenzy — something that hurt the Eagles early in the season.
But in the second half, HRV realized it could handle anything Sandy threw at them and turned on the jets. Meierbachtol, Flory and Benjamin effortlessly weaved their way through the press, while Mickie Halliday, Meghan Merz, Lesley Betts and Lindsey Sanguras managed the paint.
Despite a late surge by the Pioneers that put them within three points with four minutes left, the Eagles never relinquished the lead and made some crucial free throws down the stretch to eke out the win.
“Our girls are gaining a better understanding of what it takes to control the ball at the end of a game,” Norton said. “They’re getting the ball in the hands of our ball handlers and free-throw shooters.”