LAKEVILLE — Sometimes the easiest thing to do is play to the level of your competition.
Coming into Wednesday night’s contest against a struggling South Bend Riley squad nestled in between Saturday’s NSC win against Bremen and Friday’s conference doubleheader at Knox, it would have been easy for the Lady Lancers to overlook the Wildcats.
But instead LaVille’s girls basketball squad hit the floor ready to play, jumping out to a 15-4 lead at the quarter break and steadily building to a lopsided 56-26 win at home at Dale E. Cox Gymnasium.
“Riley, they didn’t have the best game, but they had played some teams tough,” said Lancers head coach Kevin McCullough. “We just saw them play Marian, and they were ahead of Marian at the half. They can play. Their coach is working hard with them, so we were approaching the game as, hey, Riley is just as good as we are. They have some kids that can hoop it up and we had to be ready to play, and they were ready to play.”
“They were ready to go, I applaud their effort,” McCullough continued. “You can say coach this or coach that, but when you toss the ball up, it’s up to those kids how they are going to play.”
Team defense was a focal point at the contest as LaVille used a strong effort in the halfcourt to hold the visitors to just 11 points on 5-of-25 field shooting in the first half to grab a 27-11 lead at the half.
Ultimately, Riley’s points production was the third lowest allowed by LaVille this season — after giving up just 23 points on the road at Central Noble last week — and at 30 points, the Lancers’ margin of victory was their best so far.
“We have been working hard on defense. This is the time of the year where from my standpoint, here’s where we’re at and whatever we can do we we’ve got to just make it a little better,” said McCullough. “Our girls communicated better tonight. I think they saw the big picture of what we were trying to do.
“I thought our best team defense of the year.”
Spearheading that defensive effort were guards McKenzie Leed and Kyla Coblentz, who each notched three steals while holding Riley’s Kerria Columbus to 14 points after the senior guard poured in better than 20 points at home against the Lancers last year.
Leed also had a strong offensive outing both scoring and running the LaVille offense as she finished with 11 points to go with a game-high five assists in the win.
Hannah Herbster finished with a game-best 19 points to power the Lancers offense, meanwhile, including eight points in the first frame alone to put her team firmly in control early.
“(Herbster) did an excellent job. Played under control. She handled the ball in the middle, rebounded, handled the ball against the press. Her and Mac Leed, I think those two, that was their best all-around games ever,” McCullough said.
“And I tell you, I think Lynae Hostrawser played very well too — rebounded, defended, and she was at that high post and we were reversing the ball through the high post. She did an excellent job catching and handling the ball up there.”
Also for LaVille, Amanda Carbiener finished with eight points, while Hostrawser finished with six points, and Coblentz put up five.
Riley was led by Columbus’ 14 as she accounted for more than half her team’s points in the loss, which drops the Wildcats to 2-12.
The win was the third straight for the Lancers, who have won six of their last seven, and they move above .500 for the first time this season at 7-6 following a tough 0-4 start.
It was also the first win for the team in a newly-repainted Dale E. Cox Gym, renovated in advance of next week’s 48th annual Bi-County Basketball Tournaments.
“We haven’t even practiced in here in a month. The refurbished Cox Box; that’s awesome,” said McCullough. “It looks good out there, doesn’t it? Normally we don’t pull all the bleachers out, but we thought we’d get ready for the Bi-County a little bit, yanked them all out. That was exciting.”
LaVille returns to Northern State Conference play Friday on the road at Knox when the Lady Lancers kick off a boys/ girls doubleheader at 6:30 p.m.
• LaVILLE 56, RILEY 26
Score by quarters
Riley: 4 11 21 26
LaVille: 15 27 43 56
RILEY (26): Kacie O’Neil 4, Savanna Dennig 0, Kerria Columbus 14, Zyraih Flye 0, Quadira Smith 0, Katherine Walker 0, Jessica Rife 0, Imani Ballard 4, Morgan Allison 2, Danije Sylvester 2; Totals: 11 3-5 26.
LaVILLE (56): Kelsey Gurtner 2, Paige Hawkins 0, McKenzie Leed 11, Kyla Coblentz 5, Hannah Herbster 19, Katie Berger 2, Lynae Hostrawser 6, Amanda Carbiener 8, Heather Dorn 3, Sydney Good 0, Lauren Hostrawser 0; Totals: 19 13-18 56.
3-pointers: Riley 1 (Columbus), LaVille 5 (Leed 3, Coblentz, Dorn); Rebounds: Riley 31 (O’Neil 5, Columbus 5, Allison 5), LaVille 36 (Gurtner 6); Turnovers: Riley 26, LaVille 17; Steals: Riley 10 (Columbus 2, Rife 2, Ballard 2), LaVille 11 (Leed 3, Coblentz 3); Assists: Riley 3, LaVille 10 (Leed 5); Fouls (fouled out): Riley 14 (none), LaVille 9 (none).
Records: LaVille 7-6, Riley 2-12
JV score: LaVille 32 (Sydney Good 13), Riley 25 (Te’Aria Atkins-Hollins 7)