By Joe catullo jr.
Champion struggled from the field against Grand Valley in a Division III girls basketball sectional opener on Saturday, making 34.7 percent of its shots.
The Mustangs also struggled, shooting 33.3 percent. What pushed the Golden Flashes to a 66-48 victory were free throws. Champion made 26 of 35 attempts, including 16 of 18 in the second half.
In fact, Champion (14-9) had a 1-0 advantage before the game started. Grand Valley coach Kim Triskett penciled in a player’s name with the wrong number into the scorebook, resulting in a technical foul. Jordyn Skaggs made a free throw on two attempts, and the Flashes began with possession.
Champion led 25-24 at halftime, and coach Jeff Thompson said he was disappointed in his team’s effort.
“We need to start coming out and moving the ball more,” he told his team. “Every time [Mackenzie] Kiser has the ball, she has two or three kids on her, and you got to take the shot.”
Kiser eventually took over for the Flashes, finishing with 25 points and 15 rebounds.
“I think they were getting the ball into Kiser, and she was doing her thing,” Triskett said. “She got the whistle a lot of times and got herself to the free throw line.”
Kiser made 11 free throws on 14 attempts.
“The ball goes through her,” Thompson said. “The thing about it is she controls the board, she controls us defensively, but the biggest thing is she hits free throws. It’s not like you can just foul her and get away with it. She hits free throws.”
Kiser also helped lead her team to a 25-point third quarter, giving Champion a 16-point lead into the fourth quarter. Thompson said the Flashes played that quarter “the way we’re capable of playing.”
“The kids did what they needed to do and forced her to take some shots,” Triskett said, regarding Kiser. “She had to really work the entire game, and she did.”
Jess Vormelker and Chris Futty each scored 16 points for GV (14-9).
Champion advances to the next round in the Division III tournament against All-American Conference, National Division rival Newton Falls on Thursday.