by BRYAN EVERSON
It may be of little consolation to Eisenhower, but you’d have to go back to Dec. 2 to find the last team that was able to get the better of cross-town rivals Ford.
Tuesday night’s contest went down to the wire, but the Falcons were able to survive and come away with their 14thstraight victory in a 48-40 win over the Eagles.
Ford’s 3-of-11 free-throw shooting in the final eight minutes left the final result, which clinched an outright MAC White title, in doubt until the final several minutes, though.
Trailing by a double-digit margin for the better portion after halftime, Ike (11-4, 6-3) rallied thanks to seven fourth-quarter points from Alexus Smith, and a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Lauren DeBeau closed the gap to four, but her basket with over two minutes left would prove to be the final points the Eagles would score.
The errant free throws by the Falcons (14-1, 9-0) left the window open for Ike despite a bucket by Nikki Sorgi with 1:51 remaining.
Several chances presented themselves thanks to several turnovers forced, but the Eagles were unable to connect on a pair of opportunities from beyond the arc that could have gotten the game back to within a single possession. Several Ike players contested that a deep 3-point attempt by Olivia Gulyas was tipped by a Falcons’ defender, but the protests went unrecognized by referees, and Meagan VerVaecke finally sank a pair of free throws for Ford in the final five seconds to round out the scoring.
“Playing four quarters with the same effort level, the same consistency [was a factor],” Eisenhower coach Michael Satawa said of his team, who managed just four points in the second quarter, compared to 15 in the third. “Our effort was good, our energy was good in spurts, we’ve just got to be more consistent.”
“[We’ve got to be] keeping our heads up, having confidence when other teams make runs or when we go down, it’s not the end of the world. There was a timeout when I think we were down by 10, and you would’ve thought the game was over, and there was still 5:38 left to go. The heads went down, stuff like that.”
Satawa said that better things came from his team after Ike became more aggressive following the second quarter and a slow first few minutes coming out of the break.
“I’m not saying that when we play hard we’re necessarily scoring, but when we play hard, we’re doing the things we want to do, giving it all and leaving it on the floor,” he said.
Led by 12 points from Sorgi and 11 from VerVaecke, the triumph marked Ford’s first division title since taking the MAC Red nearly 15 years ago.
“Obviously, our kids came in and didn’t want to share the division, they wanted this one,” Ford coach Matthew Joseph said. “We had a couple good practices coming into tonight, and I thought we came out and really competed hard, got on the floor for loose balls and took the ball to the basket really well.”
Already with enough to play for, a cross-town setting only added to the motivating factors for each side. “Even Mike [Satawa] and I talked about it, in the White Division with us, Utica, Ike and Stevenson, it is fun, because it’s rivalries and it’s bragging rights. [The players] know each other, they play with each other in AAU, they compete against each other, and they’re probably out there talking right now. That’s what makes it fun, because it’s that rivalry, and that’s what I think high school sports is about.”
Junior Malynn Kosnik led the Eagles in scoring with 11 points, while Debeau and Smith each finished with 10.
A showdown on Thursday night (following press deadline) for the Eagles against Utica will be for not just more local bragging rights, but have major implications on the upcoming MAC Red-White tourney, which precedes district play.
“It’s a new wrinkle. I know mathematically we weren’t eliminated from the MAC White Championship [prior to this game], but we knew that we were probably looking at playing for second place this week,” Satawa said. “Our game against Utica means a lot. We know that if we beat [them] by more than five points — some mathematical thing — we’re probably going to end up in second place.”
In boys hoops action later Tuesday night at Eisenhower, the Eagles fell by a score of 89-59 to Dakota.
Despite a four-point lead after the opening quarter by Ike (6-7, 2-6 MAC Red), the Cougars (11-3, 7-0) were able to survive the early push by the home side and pull away thanks to a 30-point outing by Jermaine Jackson Jr.
Chris Mickovski and Billy Kremp had 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Eagles in the defeat, while standout forward Thomas Kithier added 13 points for Dakota.