BRANDON — The Otter Valley Union High School girls’ basketball team pulled away in the final 12 minutes of Tuesday’s home game to earn a 41-30 win over Springfield.
The victory moved the Otters, who are sixth in the Division II standings, back over .500 at 6-5. More importantly, said senior forward Amanda Sanderson, who sparked OV with 14 rebounds, eight points, four assists and strong defense, the Otters needed to bounce back from last week’s 60-37 loss at Windsor in which they did not play well down the stretch.
Sanderson said the Otters feel like they have something to prove in the second half of the season.
“We had Windsor in that first half, and we just lost it in the second,” she said. “We’re looking forward to playing them and everyone we’ve lost to and really showing ourselves to be the better team, because we have all the talent and potential.”
OV coach Ray Counter also believes the Otters could bust out, and said a signature win might give them the necessary faith in their abilities.
“They certainly have the skill. I see it in practice,” Counter said. “I just think we need that big win.”
Counter said better execution than they showed in their half-court sets on Tuesday, especially in the first half, would also help the Otters.
“I prefer that we push the ball more than we run half-court, but I’ve also stressed to them that any team that goes to the big show can run a half-court offense,” he said.
Sanderson said Counter told the Otters to start focusing better in the half court in the second half, and they responded with more movement and picks against Springfield’s man-to-man defense, with the result better looks at the basket.
“We just got stuck going east and west instead of just attacking the basket,” Sanderson said. “We started to look to attack and kick it out and really play as a team.”
Still, even though the shots were better, not many fell: In all, OV hit only 14 of 60. But OV’s consistent defense kept them in control: They led after one period, 9-7, and at the half, 19-18, before shutting down the Cosmos in the third quarter to take a 27-20 lead after three.
As well as Sanderson, notable on defense were senior guard Shayna McDonough (six steals), junior guard Kristy Pinkham (four steals, four blocks), junior forward Jessica Greeno (three blocks), and senior guard Brittany Young. Young came off the bench in the third period and consistently disrupted the Cosmos’ three-man weave attack as OV took charge of the game. In all, OV forced 27 Cosmo turnovers.
In the first period, Pinkham had four of her game-high 13 points and senior guard Emily Waldrip hit a trey at the buzzer to give OV its lead, offsetting the work of Cosmo forward Brittany Paul, who had six of her team-high eight points in the period. Greeno had four of her eight points in the second period to help OV go into the locker room with a one-point lead, with one hoop on a sweet fast-break feed from Waldrip (four assists).
Neither team scored in the first 3:30 of the second half, but OV forward Michelle Lefebvre (seven points, six rebounds) finally broke the ice with a strong move in the lane, and Sanderson hit in the post to make it 23-18. Greeno scored on the break and hit a jumper to extend the lead to nine before Springfield’s Morgan Johnson beat the buzzer with a layup to make it 27-20.
The closest Springfield came in the fourth was 28-22 on a jumper by Desmond Dana at 5:25, but Pinkham responded with a trey 20 seconds later and a jumper a minute after that, and at 33-22 it was OV’s game.
The Otters will face a tougher test than the 1-11 Cosmos on Thursday, when they travel to 7-4 Fair Haven.
Sanderson said the Otters are motivated to improve.
“We would like to be better. Every one of us has mentioned going to the ’ship this year. We’ve got six seniors, and we’re all really excited,” Sanderson said. “We’ve all played together since fifth grade and we’ve all had AAU, and we want to take something away from that. We want to go to Barre.”
Counter remains optimistic OV can make a run.
“We keep heading in the right direction,” he said. “As a coach you always have high expectations, and I’m looking forward to the second half of the season.”