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TK victory sealed with long three and free throws

Thornapple Kellogg's Paige VanStee is pestered by Grandville's Emily Terrell as she tries to get to the basket during the second half of the Trojans' win over the Bulldogs Tuesday in Middleville. (Photo by Brett Bremer)

Brett Bremer

Sports Editor

Any butterflies were long gone 29 and a half minutes into Tuesday's varsity girls' basketball season opener between Thornapple Kellogg and Grandville in Middleville.

Thornapple Kellogg senior guard Corrin Replogle took a pass from junior teammate Paige Replogle in transition a few feet behind the three-point line and let a shot fly.

Her three-pointer, accounting for her only three points of the evening, stretched a one-point Trojan lead to three, induced a Grandville timeout and and drive smiles and high fives at the Trojan bench.

TK went on to a 40-33 victory over the visiting Bulldogs.

“I have all the confidence in the world in her,” TK head coach Ross Lambitz said of Replogle. “The way she caught it she stepped into it. It wasn't fading away. Here feet were set. She just stepped into it and she shot it with confidence. That is all I can ask of any of my girls. I trust them all to step up and take shots when they have them open like that.

“She is a senior leader, she stepped up and made a huge shot. It's a one-point game and she made it four and then Paige obviously kind of iced it from the line. Two returning players coming and just stepping up big down the stretch.”

VanStee, one of the top returning players across the OK Conference this winter, had a game-high 24 points to lead the Trojans. She was 8-of-11 at the free throw line for the evening, including 7-of-8 in the fourth quarter. She earned many of those free throws attacking the basket.

TK had a lead of as many as six points in the third quarter, but the Bulldogs had evened the ballgame up at 26-26 by the end of the period. The Bulldogs took a 28-27 lead on a steal and a lay-up by junior guard Maddie Gkekas with 6:50 to play, but that was one of the few easy buckets the Bulldogs were able to get.

“I thought we did a good job rotating and getting out on shooters and that kind of thing,” Lambitz said “We had a couple stretches where we gave up some offensive rebounds, but I thought for the most part we did a pretty decent job of getting on the glass and getting back on defense.”

One of those tough stretches on the glass came in the middle of the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs were never able to capitalize. They hit just two of their first 14 free throw attempts in the contest. A pair at the line by Jenna Eddie with a minute to play had the Bulldogs within 35-33 of the Trojans, and upped her team's total to 4-of-16 at the line for the night.

VanStee hit three more free throws in the final minute and a couple Grandville turnovers prevented the Bulldogs from closing the gap any further.

“Early you could see, both teams, we both missed a lot of shots especially at the bucket just kind of those jitters some that late in the season probably fall or maybe even in practice right now are falling,” Lambitz said. “That first game a lot of them were long around the bucket.”

Tyah Jefferson, a returning forward for the Trojans, found the bucket a couple times early and finished with six points.

“I thought we had a lot of good minutes off the bench,” Lambitz said, “especially defensively. Gracie DeWent came in and did a nice job on the perimeter and Hailey Campbell came in and gave really solid minutes and helped on the glass. Again, I feel like they came and gave sparks and we were able to keep doing what we had been defensively. That was huge.”

The TK ladies visit Holland Christian Tuesday next week, and then will visit Hastings as part of the Battle of Barry County Dec. 13.

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