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VanStee puts in career high as TK tops Wolves

Thornapple Kellogg junior Paige VanStee flips an assist behind her head after getting on the floor to secure a loose ball created by the Trojans' full-court pressure against Wyoming during the second half Tuesday. VanStee had a career-high 37 points in the Trojan victory in Middleville. (Photo by Brett Bremer)

Brett Bremer

Sports Editor

Digitizing and preserving the Thornapple Kellogg athletic record is an ongoing process for athletic director Brian Hammer.

There are banners in the gymnasium to update and correct. Many accomplishments may have been lost to time. Hammer doesn't know where to begin to look for the most points ever scored by a Thornapple Kellogg varsity girls' basketball player. TK varsity head coach Ross Lambitz didn't have that number off the top of his head Tuesday night.

Thornapple Kellogg junior Paige VanStee seems like she'd be the last one to worry about any kind of individual accomplishment like that at this point anyway. She was just satisfied that her career-high 37 points Tuesday night were enough to secure the Trojans a 65-59 victory over Wyoming in Middleville – upping TK's record to 8-4 overall and 3-2 in the OK Gold Conference.

“She plays so hard. 37 points, and how many of those does she get from being in the passing lanes and taking it down, or crashing the boards and going up strong and making plays. She is a great all-around player,” Lambitz said. “She makes teammates better and is always looking to make the winning play. Honestly, she scored 37 tonight and he would be just as happy scoring seven as long as we get the win. She just wants to win more than anybody. When you have a player with her talent and willing to make all those plays that some players don't want to, all those hustle plays, that is a great combination. I was really proud of her.”

The Trojans trailed the Wolves by as many as nine points throughout the second quarter and early into the third before a 10-0 run nudged them in front 43-41 with 2:20 to go in the third. VanStee assisted on the Trojans' first bucket of the second half, after a defensive rebound, had an offensive put-back, knocked down a pair of free throws, and had a steal that led to the tying bucket by Tyah Jefferson in transition - all during that first five minutes of the second half.

“We played well on offense, spaced the floor and just attacked the rim,” VanStee said. “When I attacked, it opened up girls on the other side of the basket and we just kept moving it around well. We made some plays.”

Nearly all of her points came in the paint. VanStee knocked down one three-pointer and went five of six a the free throw line.

Jefferson had 11 points for TK, and Haven Beyer, Hailey Campbell and Claudia Wilkinson chipped in four points apiece, with Campbell, Jefferson and Beyer all doing solid work on the glass along with VanStee.

TK led 45-44 at the end of three quarters, but a turnover led to a Wyoming free throw that tied the game. It was the kind of turnover that put TK in a hole in the first half.

“Defensively we were slow to rotate a couple times (in the first half), got out of position, and they got open looks,” Lambitz said. “They've got some really good shooters. They knocked some shots down, and we were even out of position where they got some rebounds and got put-backs. We didn't take care of the ball real well at the top either, and we had some bad passes. Give them credit for forcing us to make the bad passes, and they were able to take some down the other way and get some transition baskets a lot more in the first half than I would have liked to see.”

For the most part, the Trojans cleaned up those turnovers that turned to Wyoming lay-ups in the second half.

An offensive rebound led to an open three-pointer in the corner that Jefferson knocked down to put the Trojans in front 48-45 a minute into the fourth quarter. Jefferson then got a deflection on the other end that eventually led to a basket by VanStee to stretch the lead to five.

TK's lead grew to as many eight points in the fourth quarter before the Wolves closed back in to within four points.

Taejah Cross led Wyoming with 16 points. Teammate Michelle McGee had 12 points and McKenzie Ruppert nine.

“We lift each other up a lot,” VanStee said. “We pat each other on the back a lot and keep each other accountable, make sure what we're doing what we're supposed to do. We try and keep each others' heads up a lot.”

The TK ladies will face their biggest test of the season so far when they play host to East Grand Rapids Friday. The 12-1 Pioneers are ranked eighth in the state in Division 1, with their only loss coming at the hands of No. 2 Hudsonville.

The Trojans scored a 48-28 non-conference victory at Northview last Friday.

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