Just in time for the postseason, St. Michael the Archangel’s girls basketball team is feeling healthy and whole again.
Various and sundry injuries have kept St. Michaels from putting its regular starting five on the court for some time. But when St. Michaels played host to Van Horn Wednesday night, the Guardians finally had their top five intact.
The result? A dominating defensive performance that sparked a 65-27 victory.
“This was our first game in a few weeks where we had all five starters on the court at one time,” St. Michaels coach Mary Kroening said. “So it was nice to rebuild that chemistry and team flow as we get into districts.”
Wednesday’s game was the first in two weeks for St. Michael’s senior guard Andie Lanpher, who was nursing a knee injury. Guard Abby Salanski, who had suffered a concussion, has been back since last week with limited minutes.
Lanpher and Salanski didn’t look out of sync with the rest of their teammates, who ran a punishing full-court press that decided the outcome early. That press led to 28 Van Horn turnovers and helped the Guardians (11-10) hold the Falcons (10-10) scoreless in the second quarter.
“I think we played (the press) really well this time,” said Lanpher, one of only two seniors on the team. “Having us all back on the floor really helped.”
St. Michael’s press sparked a 12-2 run early in the first quarter, but Van Horn only trailed 21-15 after Briana Herrick sank two free throws following a foul at the buzzer.
Those would be the Falcons’ last points for some time.
St. Michaels kept up the pressure in the second period to force eight more turnovers and convert easy baskets in an 18-0 run. Sophomore guard Audrey Maglich scored 11 of her team-high 13 points in the quarter, which ended with the Guardians up 39-15.
“We’ve really emphasized making our defense turn into our offense,” Kroening said. “We know we might give up some baskets like we did in the first quarter, but with our bench we don’t feel opponents can stay with us all four quarters.”
Daisy Washington ended the drought for Van Horn with a three-pointer early in the third quarter, one of three she hit for a team-best nine points. But the Falcons couldn’t keep St. Michaels’ lead from ballooning to 58-24 by the end of the third quarter to set up a running-clock final period.
St. Michaels closes out its regular season 5:30 tonight with a game at home against Central Academy that was moved up a day because of Friday’s snowy forecast. The Guardian boys will also play tonight at 7.
Then it’s off to the Class 3 District 15 tournament, where the Guardian girls have the No. 2 seed and will meet No. 7 Cristo Rey in Tuesday’s first-round game at University Academy.
“It’s always good to get a little bit of momentum going into districts,” Kroening said.
Van Horn has two regular season games left before the Class 4 District 14 girls tournament begins Feb. 23 at Kearney. Van Horn, the No. 4 seed, will play No. 5 Raytown South in the opening round.