DIXON – The undersized, guard-heavy team from Black Hawk East paid a visit to a post-heavy Sauk Valley team on Tuesday for an Arrowhead Conference showdown.
Spectacular guard play from the Skyhawks ended up leading the way to a 59-36 victory.
The guard duo of freshman Aleena Hammelman and sophomore Sheldeen Joseph wreaked havoc on top of Sauk Valley's 1-2-2 zone. If they weren't stealing the ball themselves, they were forcing bad passes or deflections that resulted in turnovers. They combined for 14 of their team's 18 steals.
"We were just in our zone defense," Sauk coach Jed Johnson said, "and we did a good job of getting out and pressuring the ball to create some havoc up top. It got us some pretty easy baskets."
Those easy baskets came plentiful for Joseph, who utilized her quickness on both ends by getting to the basket after creating the turnovers. She finished with a game-high 23 points. The stat sheet-stuffer was also only two steals and three rebounds shy of a triple-double.
"Most of the time," Joseph said, "I am on the top of the defense. So basically my job is to get the steals, and that's what I came out and tried to do tonight. It really turned out in my favor."
Where there's thunder, there's lightning. That's where Hammelman stepped up. She got the ball rolling for the defense, and scored a pair of buckets in the opening 5 minutes of the contest, including a coast-to-coast layup that stemmed from one of her six steals.
Despite Hammelman's efforts, the Skyhawks (14-3, 3-1 Arrowhead) held only an 18-12 lead with 8 minutes to go in the half. This was a wake up call for Sauk, which was forcing turnovers, but not cashing in on them. It forced Black Hawk into 17 first-half turnovers.
"It kind of was a wakeup call," Joseph said. "That made us think we were playing relaxed. Normally teams like Black Hawk are not supposed to compete with us. We saw what was going on and expanded the lead. We wanted to win, so we had to rise above them, and that's when we actually did."
Joseph's layup with 4 seconds remaining completed an 11-6 run by the Skyhawks to close the half, which gave them a 29-18 lead.
Out of the locker room, Joseph didn't slow down. She scored eight of her 11 points in the first 6 minutes of the second half. This helped Sauk grab a 39-26 lead with 14 minutes to play.
"[Coach Johnson] told me to get the ball inside and be patient," Joseph said, "and that's what I did."
"They did a great job on our posts," Johnson said. "They doubled our posts every time that we tried to get into something, That's obviously our strength, and they did a good job taking it away. We started penetrating with our guards a little bit. Sheldeen and Hammelman did a pretty good job getting that done for us."
The cruise control was comfortably set the rest of the way, as the 3-point reliant Warriors couldn't get a shot to fall.
The inside also opened up for the third Skyhawk with double-figure scoring. Freshman Jordan Giddings scored eight of her 10 points in the final 12 minutes of the contest.
Star of the game: Sheldeen Joseph, SVCC, 23 points, 8 steals, 7 rebounds.
Key performers: Kodi Hammer (BHE), 11 points; Aleena Hammelman, SVCC, 13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals.
Up next: SVCC at Carl Sandburg, 5:30 p.m. Thursday