Hawks fly past supersized Tigers for conference lead
OREGON – It's not the size of the Hawk in the fight.
Byron's University of Toledo-bound Sophie Reecher is 6-foot-4. Her sophomore teammate Ellie Lehne is 6-2. Oregon did not have a player over 5-7 get on the floor. But, it was Byron that was overmatched on Friday.
The Hawks played a 3-2 zone the entire way, which mystified the Tigers as Oregon controlled the action from start to finish in a 53-39 win at the Blackhawk Center. The win gave the Hawks sole possession of first place in the Big Northern West.
"Our game plan was to shut down the two big girls. They love to lob it," said Oregon's Samantha Lambrigtsen, who scored a team-high 15 points and swiped five steals. "We just battled inside. We followed our game plan perfectly."
It didn't take long for the Hawks (14-4, 5-0) to set the tone, as they jumped in front 8-1, thanks to 3-pointers by Lambrigtsen and Emylyn Wright, who had 11 points and five rebounds.
Early in the second quarter, another Oregon 3-pointer, this one from McKaylee Beeter (11 points), made it 17-5 with 6:07 left in the first half. The Hawks led by double digits the rest of the way.
"We've played against taller people," Wright said. "We have speed. Size doesn't matter to us. Even though we're not that tall, we can still beat taller teams."
Oregon coach Kristy Eckardt was thrilled with her team's execution in the 3-2 zone.
"The girls were smart and didn't get in too much foul trouble," she said. "We knew we would be able to more easily double-team and get out on their shooters. We wouldn't be able to match up man-to-man. There's no way, with those big girls. They did exactly what we wanted them to do."
The Hawks extended to an 18-point lead in the final minute of the first half and led 27-13 at intermission.
Down by 19, Byron (15-2, 4-1), whose only previous loss was to Prophetstown, which also beat Oregon, used an 11-4 burst to make it a 12-point game with just under 2 minutes left in the third quarter.
The Hawks led 42-29 heading to the fourth quarter.
Oregon all but put the game away with consecutive 3-pointers by Lambrigtsen and Beeter, and a free throw by Kimberly Janke that made it 49-29 with 5:29 to play.
Not throwing in the towel just yet, the Tigers scored the next eight points to make it 49-37 with 3:08 left. That was as close as they would get.
Lehne led Byron with 17 points. Reecher had eight. The Tigers were just 1-for-18 from 3-point range, with Mayson Whipple going 1-for-14.
Oregon was 6-for-12 from long range, with Beeter hitting 3-of-5.
Star of the game: Samantha Lambrigtsen, Oregon, 15 points, 5 steals
Key performers: Ellie Lehne, Byron, 17 points; Emylyn Wright, Oregon, 11 points, 5 rebounds; McKaylee Beeter, Oregon, 11 points, 4 assists
Up next: Serena at Oregon, 7:15 p.m. Saturday