North CANTON: As strategies go, holding the unbeaten Lake girls basketball team to four points in a quarter on 0-for-7 shooting and forcing nine turnovers would seem like a good one.
As it turns out, it takes a little more than that to beat the Blue Streaks.
That’s not exactly what the rest of the Federal League wanted to hear.
North Canton Hoover dominated the Blue Streaks in the third quarter Saturday, shrinking their 13-point halftime deficit to three by early in the fourth, but the Blue Streaks regrouped and found enough answers to hold off the Vikings 54-48.
For Lake (13-0, 8-0 Federal League), ranked second in the Division I state poll, tense fourth quarters have been rare this season. In fact, Saturday’s win was just its third by single digits.
“Having a close game like this shows we have to stay humble and keep working harder in practice,” said Lake junior McKenna Stephens, who led the Blue Streaks with 18 points. “It will help us.”
A 3-pointer from Kelsey Lensman followed by a steal and layup by Kelsey Peare got the Vikings within three points with 3:57 left.
The Blue Streaks relied on their defense to halt the Vikings’ momentum. After a timeout, a Stephens steal led to an Audrey Myers 3-pointer from the corner and a 45-39 lead. Two more Lake steals forced the Vikings to foul. The Blue Streaks responded at the line, hitting 5-of-6 in the final minute.
“I thought Aubrey Myers’ 3 was the backbreaker,” said Lake coach Henry Cobb. “Any time you can come to Hoover and get a win, we’re happy with that.”
It was the third loss of the season for the Vikings (12-3, 6-3). They have lost to Lake (twice) and Canton McKinley (ranked fifth in the state). The first meeting with Lake ended 73-54 after the Blue Streaks pulled away in the fourth quarter. This time, it seemed the Blue Streaks would pull away sooner.
After taking a 7-6 lead in the first quarter, the Vikings shot 4-of-20 the rest of the half, missing a bevy of jumpers and 3-pointers. Meanwhile, the Blue Streaks took advantage of fast breaks and Stephen’s 10 points to lead 31-18 at the half.
“We did a lot of things in the first half that we should not be doing,” said Vikings coach Tim Vick. “Not grabbing rebounds, we were running back on the break and not talking and we gave up 8, 10, 12 fast-break points in the second quarter.’’
But the Vikings pressed and used suffocating defense to force turnovers and shrink their deficit to five entering the fourth. Although the Blue Streaks were having perhaps their worst quarter of the season, the Vikings managed to hit only 5-of-17 shots in the quarter as their perimeter shooting continued to struggle.
“I thought we played harder in the second half, but we just couldn’t get shots to fall,” Vick said. “We just couldn’t quite get over the hump.”
Julie Worley led the Vikings with 18 points, including 11 in the second quarter to keep the Vikings close. Teammate Kaylee Stroemple scored 12. Myers and Baylee Dyrlund each scored 10 for the Blue Streaks, who are no doubt happy to be done with the Vikings this season.
“We knew we’d have our hands full tonight,” Cobb said. “I thought in the third quarter they played harder than we did. We didn’t match their energy. But we made enough plays to walk out of here with a ‘W.’ Fortunately we were able to survive.”
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