Otsego won the first battle. Three Rivers’ girls basketball team won the war.
After getting roughed up at home in a Wolverine Conference crossover game against Otsego just nine days earlier, the Wildcats exacted revenge Thursday on the road in a 46-33 victory in the league championship.
And the Queen of the Wolverine was in full command. Senior forward/center Teagan Reeves, a finalist for this year’s Miss Basketball award, did as she pleased in the second half for 18 of her game-high 30 points. The Western Michigan University-bound player also came down with 21 rebounds, becoming just the 19th female player in state history to reach 1,000, to power Three Rivers to consecutive league crowns — the first time the school has accomplished such a feat in girls hoops.
Partner in crime Linsey Masnari finished her last regular season game with a double-double as well, tossing in 11 points and securing 10 boards to go with a team-high six assists.
Both squads came in with 16-3 overall records. Three Rivers finished 10-0 in the West Division and Otsego went 9-1 in the East.
But it was reigning champ Three Rivers that felt like it had something to prove. The entire Wildcats team, but Reeves and Masnari in particular, did just that.
“Obviously scoring wise, rebounding wise — that’s on top of the fact that every team we play is gunning for them and set up to eliminate them from being able to do what they do,” Three Rivers coach Jason Bingaman said of his senior duo. That’s what makes it even more impressive. With them scoring, we got some good contributions [from others] just handling the basketball and getting good spacing so Teagan and Linsey could get the ball in good position, which is what we didn’t do last time we played Otsego.”
Reeves, who now has 1,518 career points, registered eight points in the first quarter, which ended with the score tied at 11-11. Otsego’s Sarah White carried the Bulldogs, putting up nine points through the midway point of the second quarter to give her team a 21-15 advantage.
To make things worse for Three Rivers, Reeves picked up her second foul with less than two minutes to play in the first half, followed by a third with 35 seconds left. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Bulldogs were up 26-19.
“Oh, man … yeah, that was bad,” Reeves said. “It helped so much tonight that our perimeter players were playing such good defense because then it doesn’t allow their outside players to penetrate into the paint so that I don’t have to pick up cheap fouls.”
“It was a situation we weren’t in a whole lot and a lot of what we do goes through [Reeves],” Bingaman explained. “It’s easy to say now, but when we left that locker room the girls were focused and were ready to come out and do some things differently. Teagan’s smart and she played a really smart second half defensively.”
Reeves, maintaining her aggressiveness, managed to stay out of further trouble and poured in 12 points in the third quarter. The Wildcats buckled down on defense, holding the host school to only two points to take a 32-28 advantage into the fourth quarter.
Three Rivers outscored Otsego 14-5 over the final eight minutes to claim another banner and piece of hardware.
The Wildcats only shot 33 percent (15-for-45) for the game, but their defense down the stretch was more than enough to take the drama out of the title bout.
“I think we just realized that we had worked so hard all season to let a game like this slide out of our reach,” Reeves said. “I think we just came into that second half knowing what we had to do. We talked a lot more on defense to each other and our perimeter defenders were working their butts off. That’s what did it; our perimeter defenders just shut them down.”
Krishanna Carter gave Three Rivers five points, two assists and two rebounds, Alicia Schmidtendorff had five steals, Cory Sanders had three boards and a steal and Alexis Herbert chipped in two rebounds and two assists.
Both Bingaman and Reeves pointed to Schmidtendorff as the unsung hero in the second-half defensive lockdown.
“She had so many tips and jump balls that don’t get stats, but she is just awesome on defense,” Reeves said.
Added Bingaman: “We probably had our best perimeter defense in those two quarters all season there after halftime sparked by Alica Schmidtendorff. She did a great job with on-the-ball pressure. Our other perimeter players did a nice job of following suit.”