AE girls clinch share of NSL second place
HALE — Arenac Eastern is busily putting the touches on its best girls’ basketball seasons in decades, while Hale is pushing the re-start button while preparing for the district tournament.
Arenac Eastern's 59 - 47 victory at Hale on Monday improved its record to 14-3 and at 10-3 clinched at least a share of the North Star League's runner-up spot. But Hale had plenty of optimism, too, after its revamped lineup gave AE a run for its money in the second half, cutting a 17-point lead down to six.
Eastern ripped out to a 25-8 lead early in the second quarter, thanks in large part to four steal-and-scores by Briana Dery, but Hale didn't quit on the game. Throwing a full court press at AE for most of the game and pushing the tempo, Hale was able to dictate the game's tempo in the second half and nearly sprung the upset.
"We got caught up in their kind of game," said AE coach Butch Beckham. "It was a physical game, which we expected, but started rushing things against their press.
"We hit some free throws down the stretch, which we haven't always done."
Easter still led 40 - 26 midway through the third quarter, but Hale launched an 11 - 2 run that made it close. Laura Sidebottom drilled a pair of 3-pointers and Tarra Caverly had a triple and a steal and layup cut it to 43-37.
Fittingly, that last basket was Caverly's 1,000th career point, after which Hale coach Joe Kimmerer called a time out to acknowledge the milestone.
"She didn't get called up (to varsity) until five games into her sophomore year, so it's really quite an accomplishment," Kimmerer said. "It's gotten tougher for her these last few games, because she knows she's our only consistent scoring option, and so does everyone else."
Eastern was able to defend Caverly well through the rest of the game, though she created plenty of offense at the defensive end that kept Hale in the game.
Caverly twice had steals and scores that cut into Eastern's lead in the fourth quarter, the last with 3:10 left that made it a 53-45 game. But after Hale forced an AE turnover, Hale missed a layup that could have cut it to six.
Chelsea Dery, Briana Dery and Danielle Jurek hit 6-of-8 free throws in the final two minutes to seal the win.
"We're definitely a work in progress, "Kimmerer said. "It's tough to change direction so late in the season. We've had to go to a lot more (defensive) pressure, and we're still giving up too many easy baskets. But we're getting some other kids stepping up, like Laura with her shooting and Kellan (Rehil) defensively and rebounding.
"These last two games (against Arenac Eastern and a loss to Posen the previous Thursday) are at least as good as anyone in our district. After tonight I fell like we still can compete (for a district title)."
Though Eastern held on for the win, Beckham was as much relieved as happy.
"We definitely let them control the pace," he said. "And we had too many opportunities we let go by the wayside.
"We'll get back at it tomorrow and hope we can keep getting better."
Caverly led all scorers with 25, with Sidebottom adding 12 as Hale fell to 8-9 (5-7 NSL).
Briana Dery led a balanced AE scoring attack with 16 points, with Chelsea Dery adding 13 and Jurek and Maddie Nelson 11 apiece.