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Dragons stay atop conference with 73-61 victory over Eagles

ADRIAN -- If someone would have told Adrian head coach Randy Strand that his team would open the game on a 30-8 run, he probably wouldn't have believed it.

"We were telling the girls that it was going to be a one possession game all the way," Strand said. "What you do on defense each trip down or what you do on offense each trip down is going to be important. We expected a real tight game, and it got interesting at the end."

Even with a large lead, the Adrian girls' came away with a 73-61 victory over Southwest Christian in a Red Rock Conference game featuring two of the top teams in the conference.

"It's a big win and a confidence builder to get a win like that," Adrian's Sam Lynn said. "We knew it was going to be tough. And like coach said, it was a playoff-type atmosphere, so we knew it would help our confidence and build us up for other games. We still have a lot of tough games left before the playoffs start."

While Southwest Christian (9-4, 11-6) needed a 3-pointer in the final seconds to defeat Adrian earlier this season, the Dragons were determined not to led the game be that close again.

"We were excited for this game," Strand said. "They beat us the first time around. We felt like we didn't play the best, but that's basketball."

If Adrian (11-2, 16-3) didn't give the Eagles its best game back in November, the Dragons showed their offensive firepower in the early going of Thursday night's game.

"It was nice. I think we were all just pretty prepared to play," Lynn said of the fast start. "We knew had to come out strong, because we knew if we were down it would take a lot to come back. They are a very good team, so we knew we had to get the momentum."

After Jada Vander Veen (17 points, seven rebounds) scored the first points of the game, Melissa Weidert started an 11-2 run for the Dragons.

Vander Veen got SWC on the board again to stop the bleeding temporarily, but a pair of free throws from Katy Slater and a pair of treys from Bridgett Block (10 points) started a 14-0 run for the Dragons -- giving Adrian a 25-4 lead eight minutes into the game.

"We got off to a good start, but as good you can start you know it can go in the tank just as fast," Strand said. "Basketball is a game of spurts, and you see them both ways. We kept it far enough that we had the lead at the end, and that's what counts."

A 3-pointer from Lynn (23 points, 10 assists) from the left wing increased the lead to 22, but baskets from Vander Veen and Brianna Spronk but the lead back to 18.

Following a trey from SWC's Kayla Broekhuis, Karli Meyer's basket started a 15-0 run for Adrian, increasing the lead to 47-19.

The Eagles finished the second half on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 21 at the break, 47-26.

"Apparently we just weren't ready to play," Southwest Christian head coach Denise Nerem said of the first half. "It's a bad place to start when you have such a deficit like that. I'm really proud of the girls with how they came back in the second half. You couldn't ask for more effort."

Weidert and Erica Thier (17 points) each made a basket to start the second half, but the Eagles began to make their run.

Kara Van Dyke (10 points) scored on an offensive rebound and put back, cutting the lead to 23.

From that point on, Spronk (25 points) took over. The junior forward scored SWC's next 16 points to pull the Eagles back within 11, 61-50.

"She really came out in the second half," Nerem said. "She is such a strong player, but she just really needs to do that each time out. She's such a good leader for us."

A basket and a pair of free throws from Van Dyke cut the deficit to nine points with five-and-a-half minutes remaining.

"We sat back and watched Adrian too much in the first half," Nerem said. "I don't know what was going on. In the second half we decided it was time to play basketball. It's too bad that we couldn't have played two halves like that, the outcome would have been much different."

Meyer then scored Adrian's final field goal of the game, but the Dragons were able to seal the victory with free throws and earn their 11th consecutive victory with a 73-61 decision.

"The girls are really disappointed, and I'm glad they are disappointed, they should be," Nerem said. "But we're going to see Adrian again during tournament time and that'll be our chance again."

Adrian, who hosts Worthington Saturday, remains atop of a tight conference race, while SWC falls to fifth -- two games behind the Dragons.

"It keeps us up there with the rest of the pack," Strand said. "We know we're only as good as our next game and we have Worthington coming up on Saturday, so we're looking forward to that one."

SWC travels to Russell-Tyler-Ruthton tonight.

SWC 26 35 -- 61

Adrian 47 26 -- 73

SWC (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Broekhuis 1-0-0-3, Vermeer 0-3-0-6, Vander Veen 1-7-1-17, Van Dyke 0-4-2-10, Spronk 3-6-2-25. Totals 5-20-6-61.

Adrian (3FG-2FG-FT-TP) Thier 2-2-7-17, Lynn 3-6-2-23, Slater 0-2-2-6, Block 2-1-2-10, Weidert 0-4-0-8, Meyer 0-3-3-9. Totals 7-18-16-73.