PARIS — What was supposed to be a clash between two of the top Eastern A girls’ basketball was something less Friday.
In a rematch of the Eastern A final, the defending champions from Oxford Hills were missing three starters against Edward Little. The Red Eddies broke open a lead in the second quarter and never looked back in a 50-23 win.
The Vikings were missing starters Anna Winslow, Mikayla Morin and Tianna Sugars to injuries. All three were instrumental in last winter’s championship run, which included a win over EL in the Eastern A final. Winslow and Morin are both day-to-day and could be back sometime next week. Sugars could be back by the end of the month.
“Right now, we’re just trying to get them healed as quickly as possible,” said Oxford Hills coach Nate Pelletier, whose team started last year 1-3 before a strong finish and regional title. “Those happened in the preseason and we deal with it.”
Edward Little had scouted a preseason game in which Morin was out with an injury already and watched Winslow get hurt last weekend. So EL suspected the Vikings might be shorthanded.
“You hear a bunch of rumours but you never know until you step on the floor,” said EL coach Craig Jipson, who had heard about Sugars injury later in the week.
EL built a 12-6 lead in the first quarter and then broke the game open with a 18-4 second quarter. With a sizable part of their offense and the core of the Vikings post game out, Oxford Hills just couldn’t keep pace.
“I give so much credit to the Oxford Hills kids,” Jipson said. “I thought the Oxford Hills kids came out and battled. They played really hard. They never sulked and didn’t hang their heads. My daughter plays AAU with a couple of those kids, and I think their parents should be proud.”
EL took advantage with its experience inside. Brooke Reynolds led the Red Eddies with 13 points while Emily Jacques had 12. Eraleena Hairston had seven while Jordyn Reynolds had six. Tianna Harriman added seven from the outside.
The Vikings five starters were all returning players but none had seen prominent roles last year. Oxford Hills was thin on experience off the bench. Erin Eastman led the Vikings with seven while Anna Piirainen added five.
“We struggled to score at times,” Pelletier said. “Some of it was the pressure they were putting on. Some of it was missing open shots that we normally hit. When these kids are learning, the game is really fast for them. So they’re trying to slow the game down in their mind a little bit. It’s tough to be thrown right to the wolves first day like that. They did the best they could, and that’s all we can ask for.”
Neither team shot well. EL missed its first seven shots and were 5-for-17 in the first quarter. Oxford Hills missed its first three shots and were 2-for-8 in the first. EL started to score a little more regularly and managed to hold the Vikings without a basked for five minutes in the second quarter.
“Defensively, for a lot of the game, we really played well, but we need to be able to make easy shots,” Jipson said.
EL used a 17-2 run to finish the first half. Harriman had all seven of her points in the quarter to spark the offense. Hairston and Brooke Reynolds each had five points in the post.
“We’ve struggled to score all preseason,” Jipson said. “Even in the summer, we struggled to score. We broke out a little bit in our last preseason game, but we need to be able to score. We certainly didn’t shoot well tonight.”
Oxford Hills got a rebound from Sophia Hanscom early in the second and then didn’t get another basket until a Maighread Laliberte drive in the final minute.
Though EL missed its first seven shots in the third, Jacques scored six straight to pad the lead. The Vikings were 0-for-7 in the third and didn’t get a field goal until an Eastman 3 with 3:18 left in the fourth. The Vikings got some outside shots from Eastman and Erin Morton down the stretch.
“It’s good for our girls,” said Pelletier. “The first half we were hoping they would have fought a little harder and in the second half they did. That’s what we’re looking for – that improvement throughout the year. Some kids have to step up in certain roles, and we did some of that today.”
Though EL was without guard Sarah Hammond, the Red Eddies got some balance offensively with seven different players scoring.
“Our post players are outstanding,” Jipson said. “It’s one of the deepest teams that I’ve had as far as kids down the line that can score. We just need to make some easy shots.”