Vikings Battle for District Champion Title
Story and Photos by Alexis Mercer
Tri-County 51 Grant 46 Final OT
All signs were pointing toward a battle in the District Final between the Grant Tigers and Tri-County Vikings in the MHSAA Girls Basketball Tournament.
Each team has a tall center to line up for the tip off and post up under the basket. Each team is full of talented ball-handlers. Each team won in the semi-finals against competitive teams.
And the last time these two teams played...
...it went into overtime, with Grant barely losing to Tri-County.
So the gymnasium was packed and charged for a night of girls basketball. One team wins and moves on to the Regional, one team loses and is done with the season.
The first quarter provided the crowd with plenty of excitement in the form of aggressive defense. Right away there were three blocks, first by Patton of Grant, then by Thompson of Tri-County, and one more by Patton.
Despite only being a sophomore, Kylie Patton proceeded to make a statement by scoring Grant’s first points.
It wasn’t until 4:42 was left on the clock in the first quarter that Tri-County earned their first points in the form of a layup by Tricia Slavens.
Ashley Bowen took an opportunity to make a block of her own with just under 2 minutes left in the 1st quarter, and the score remained 2-2. While this was Bowen’s first big play of the game, she was just getting warmed up.
At the quarter, the Vikings had 4 points and the Tigers had 8.
In the second quarter, Patton fouled Laura Bouwkamp, who drains both free throws, tying the game at 8.
Both teams settled in to the pace of the game with less blocking, but with more fouls. The guards for Grant and Tri-County were driving the ball up the court with intense precision, setting up plays and battling for possession.
With one minute left before the half, Vikings' Grace Miller hit a 3 to go up 19-14. The crowd went wild. Slavens followed it up with a 2 point and drawing the foul, making her free throw to send the Vikings up 26-16 headed into the locker room.
But as is Grant's way, Coach Paulsen had a game plan to bring the Tigers back into the game in the second half.
Ashley Herin, Grant's #4, hit a 3 to pull the Tigers within 4. But Viking Ashley Bowen responded with her own 3. So Herin effortlessly takes the ball up the court and drains another.
The Grant crowd turned angry and loud when they felt their Bouwkamp was fouled, and the Tigers turned the crowd's excitement into their advantage, draining another 3 to bring the Tigers within one point at the end of the third quarter.
In the 4th, Paleari hit a 3 for Grant with 3:37 to go and Grant took a 6 point lead over the Vikings. So the Grant offense starts to stall, forcing Tri-County to step up their game if they wanted back in for a chance at the title.
And this is when Ashley Bowen started to dominate. She was fouled and made both her free throws, bringing Tri-County to within 4.
Every possession, Bowen was in control. Dribbling, directing and driving in to the hoop.
It was Tri-County's shortest player on the court, Taylor Reed, who blocked a shot to force a turnover. She also scored 2 points.
Grant's Herin made 2 crucial free throws, making it look like Grant was going to escape this last push by the Vikings.
But back came Bowen, scoring 2 with 28 seconds on the clock, putting the Vikings within 1 point.
Dayoni Maylich hit a two point shot with 18 seconds and the home crowd erupted. But Grant was fouled on the next inbound pass, so Paleari went to the line. She made her first, missed her second, tying the game at 42.
Tri-County had one last second shot, but missed, sending the game into a dramatic overtime.
Bowen continued her dominance, driving the ball to the hoop into a block by Patton, who fouled out. Bowen made both free throws.
Taylor Reed of Tri-County got fouled twice in the next minute, making 2 of the 4 free throws, which put the Vikings out of reach for the Tigers.
The final score was Tri-County 51, Grant 46. A second OT game this season, a second close win for Tri-County over a well-matched opponent.
Tri-County will move on to the Regional round next week.