Blue Devils hold off Jackets, 34-33

HOLLAND — Springfield’s girls basketball team has demonstrated that you do not necessarily need height to excel.

Springfield’s backcourt trio, 5-foot-3 junior A’Leah Hodges, 5-6 senior Kendall Carruthers, and 5-6 junior Kalaia Taylor, combined to score 24 points, get 12 steals and grab 14 rebounds in leading the Blue Devils to a 34-33 Northern Lakes League victory over Perrysburg Friday.

Perrysburg coach Todd Sims knew it was coming, but it’s so hard to stop Carruthers when she shoots a three from well beyond the arc.

“Everything goes through Kendall, and she’s a senior, and you can tell that she wants the ball at the end of games,” Sims said.

“So, everything goes through her, but they are quick. There is a reason why they haven’t lost any league games.

“They are good. They have some more experience than we have. It showed at times, but we fought,” Sims continued.

The Blue Devils improve to 9-3 and stay unbeaten in the NLL at 6-0, while the Yellow Jackets fall to 8-4 and 4-3, missing out on a potential must-win if they want a chance at the league title this year.

Springfield never trailed in the fourth quarter, but Perrysburg freshman guard Kallie Thames scored in the paint with under five seconds remaining to close the gap to one, 34-33.

Carruthers was immediately fouled with 3.4 seconds remaining, and she made the first of a one-and-one, but a lane violation nullified the free throw. A half court heave by the Jackets fell short at the buzzer.

Sims thought his players missed out on not taking some open looks late in the game that could have made a difference.

“We had some real good looks to take the lead and I thought we were a little tentative instead of stepping up and popping it up with confidence,” Sims said. “But I loved the way we played the whole time.”

Carruthers hit four three-point goals, and three were from 22 feet or further, in scoring a game-high 16 points with five rebounds and three steals.

Springfield junior Gretchen Sigman, the NLL’s Player of the Year in volleyball who provides the height at 5-11, had 10 points and two steals. Taylor had five points and five steals and Hodges had three points and four steals.

“Carruthers, Hodges, Gretchen Sigman, and Kalaia Taylor do a really good job. They are quick on the outside. They hustle and they work hard,” Spriingfield coach Clifton Hodges said.

All of those steals resulted in 19 turnovers committed by the Yellow Jackets, while Springfield had just eight.

Perrysburg shot 37% (15-for-41) from the field and made just one of four free throws. The Yellow Jackets did have a 40-27 advantage off the glass.

The Blue Devils made just 12-of-46 field goals (26%) and were 4-for-6 at the line, but six of their field goals counted for three points each. Sigman and Hodges had one triple apiece, but it was not the offense Hodges wanted.

“Tonight, I didn’t think we had the best offensive output but moving forward I hope we can put together four quarters to match our energy and effort on the defensive end,” coach Hodges said. “Overall, I thought they worked hard.”

Sophomore guard Chloe Kilbride led Perrysburg with eight points, Thames scored six points, and junior guard Aubrey Evans and sophomore guard Haley Griggs scored five points each for the Jackets.

Senior forward Megan Gibbs had four points, 13 rebounds, and three steals, sophomore guard Ayla Turk had three points and six rebounds, and junior center Wrigley Takats had two points and 10 rebounds.

Sims liked the fight his girls showed, despite losing to the league leaders by just one point.

“Effort is never a problem,” Sims said. “I knew we were going to fight like crazy. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew we were going to fight.”

Perrysburg starts just one senior, so Hodges believes the Yellow Jackets are a team that is going to continue to improve this season and into next.

“Perrysburg is going to be a real good team,” Hodges said. “And they are a good team, and they are young, and I can see that they will be really conquering the league the next couple years.

“Griggs is just an outstanding player along with Kilbride, I think Turk does a great job and Takats and Gibbs down there — they are a real good group. I hate to see them in the tournament because they are going to give somebody some fits.”