LAKEVILLE — Four games ago, LaVille opted to convert senior Kaitlyn Kopetski into a super sub.
Four consecutive wins later, the move looks like a stroke of genius.
In the latest installment Kopetski, a 5-foot-11 forward, hit 11 of 13 from the charity stripe en route to a season-high 21 points, pulled in nine rebounds, and handed out three assists to power the Lancers to a 53-46 Northern State Conference girls basketball win over visiting Knox at Dale E. Cox Gymnasium Saturday.
Kopetski checked in midway through the first frame and promptly registered eight points during a 15-0 stretch that put the Lancers up 15-6 with 6:53 left in the first half and in command the rest of the way.
“Last year (Kopetski) subbed, but being a senior, we had her starting this year,” LaVille head coach Kevin McCullough, whose team won its fourth game when scoring 53 points, said. “After the Judson game (Dec. 21) we said, ‘Kopets, you’re going back to the bench.’ It’s helped her out. She had a bunch of rebounds and 21 points tonight; the game before, she had 11 points, eight rebounds. Tonight she exerted herself.”
Junior center Jesse Feitz tacked on 11 points and 10 rebounds, including a pair of free throws that gave LaVille its largest lead, 51-32 with 4:03 to go in the fourth quarter.
Senior point guard Elaine Schmeltz added five assists, five steals, and won a number of loose-ball scrambles for LaVille. She also hit a perfectly executed fastbreak layup off a feed from Kopetski to put the Lancers up 25-15 at the halftime horn.
“(Schmeltz) played a good floor game,” McCullough said. “She doesn’t have to score to be a dominant player. Her fitness and acceleration are excellent, and when she turns on the jets she has the rare ability to pop a couple of dribbles and get free.”
Also off the bench, LaVille sophomore Amanda Carbiener drilled a trio of crucial 3-pointers, and Leigha Manuel added seven points in significant playing time.
“Amanda Carbiener hit some big 3s,” McCullough said. “Leigha Manuel probably played her best game ever. She hooped it up out there.”
Knox, meanwhile, encountered all sorts of difficulty putting the ball in the hole, most notably, hitting just 15 of 36 from the foul line. The Redskins also missed their first 12 tries from 3-point range before Chelsea Combs drained the squad’s first and only trey with 1:41 left in the game.
“We had 12 days off between games, and it looked like we had 12 days off between games,” Knox head coach Dan Huizenga said. “It was equal opportunity when we missed shots; everybody was missing. We’d get shots and couldn’t get a look to drop. It seemed like the only shots we could hit were layups off turnovers; that’s probably not the case, but it seemed like that.
“We shot 20-something percent from the floor and 40-something percent from the free-throw line,” he added. “That’s a bad combination.”
Even so, Knox, which forced turnovers all game, finally converted on the offensive end in the last half of the final frame, finishing with a 14-2 run to make the final score a bit more respectable.
“We manned up and went after it in the fourth quarter,” Huizenga said. “We started going after the ball and if bodies got in the way, so be it. Fundamentally LaVille’s pretty good to where you can’t fall behind that much that early and expect to recover.”
The Lancers, though, threw the ball away 12 times in the fourth quarter and 31 times for the game.
“We lost our composure a little bit,” McCullough said. “We need to improve how we function at the end of the game. The good thing is the Lancers won.”
Senior guard Brittany Tetzloff led the Redskins with 18 points and seven rebounds. Teammate Janyl Zachary chipped in 10 points.
LaVille opens Bi-County Tournament action Tuesday at home against four-time defending champion Oregon-Davis. Knox hosts Jimtown Tuesday.
• LaVILLE 53,
Score by quarters
Knox: 6 15 31 46
LaVille: 10 25 42 53
KNOX (46): Shelby Gilbert 0 5-6 5, Janyl Zachary 4 2-14 10, Hope Wagner 0 1-2 1, Kaitlin Zachary 0 0-0 0, Kierstynn Combs 0 1-3 1, Chelsea Combs 3 0-1 7, Elisabeth Caudill 2 0-0 4, Brittany Tetzloff 6 6-10 18. TOTALS: 15 15-36 46.
LaVILLE (53): Leigha Manuel 3 0-0 7, Zoe Bulick 0 0-0 0, Elaine Schmeltz 2 1-2 5, Jesse Feitz 4 3-7 11, Lynae Hostrawser 0 0-0 0, Kaitlyn Kopetski 5 11-13 21, Amanda Carbiener 3 0-0 9, Katie Bettcher 0 0-0 0, Kelsey Gurtner 0 0-0 0. TOTALS: 17 15-22 53.
3-point goals: Knox 1 (C. Combs), LaVille 4 (Carbiener 3, Manuel); Turnovers: Knox 18, LaVille 31; Rebounds: Knox 30 (Tetzloff 7), LaVille 34 (Feitz 10); Assists: Knox 6 (Wagner, Tetzloff 2), LaVille 12 (Schmeltz 5); Steals: Knox 8 (C. Combs, Tetzloff 2), LaVille 9 (Schmeltz 5); Fouls (fouled out): Knox 15 (none), LaVille 23 (Hostrawser); Technical fouls: K. Zachary, Knox bench; Records: Knox 6-8 (1-3 NSC), LaVille 7-6 (3-2 NSC).
JV score: Knox 39, LaVille 31.