Vikings drop two HAAC home games

Friday, January 13, 2017

The dreaded "S" word has struck the Missouri Valley College women's basketball team.

Despite leading for almost three full quarters, the Lady Vikings couldn't sustain the pace Thursday during their first-ever Heart of America Conference clash with visiting Clarke. The 64-59 loss was the fourth straight for Valley, which has dropped six league contests in a row.

That, friends, is called a "slump."

The Lady Vikings held a three-point lead after the first quarter and opened the second period with an eight-point run for a 29-18 advantage. The Lady Crusaders scored nine straight points before Valley closed the half with six consecutive points to stretch the margin to eight points.

Clarke scratched away at its deficit during the third period, pulling in front for the first time on junior Kea Whittington's lay-up with 2:43 to go. The Lady Vikings only trailed for 35 seconds before senior Ashley Ward got inside for a deuce, both teams going scoreless for the last two minutes of the frame.

The lead changed hands five times during the final stanza, a conventional three-point play by junior Deidra McCoy putting Valley in front with 2:47 remaining in the game. Senior Kelsey Ernst tied it nine seconds later and the Lady Crusaders regained the lead on another Ernst bucket with 1:16 to go.

Junior Moriah Begin's put-back made it a two-possession gap, with Clarke sinking all four its free throws down the stretch. McCoy hit from short range with three seconds left, but the Lady Vikings were unable to get the ball back.

Ernst had 16 points and Whittington contributed 13 points, eight assists and five steals for the Lady Crusaders (10-6, 6-6 HAAC).

Valley (7-9, 3-9) was paced by Ward's 18 points and 16 points from McCoy.

The men's game was nearly as close at the end, but Clarke led for all but a minute for a 73-67 decision.

With 6-foot-7 sophomore Avery Butler scoring seven points -- including a stick-back and perimeter jumper, both following offensive rebounds -- the Crusaders got off to a 21-9 start.

That would be Clarke's largest lead, but the Vikings closed the gap to three points on multiple occasions -- the last one being on a pair of free throws by senior Brody Gronewold with 1:09 remaining in the game.

The Crusaders answered on their next possession as sophomore Ernest Bolden, Jr., drove to the rack. The margin remained at four or more points the rest of the way as Clarke sank four of six attempts from the charity stripe.

Butler and junior Haris Takes each tallied 17 points for the Crusaders (6-10, 4-8).

Valley (9-6, 7-5) was led by junior Kyle Hickey with 15 points and five assists.

The Vikings are due to host William Penn on Saturday, if weather conditions permit.

Contact Chris Allen at callen@marshallnews.com

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