Lady Knights lock up first winning season in 12 years

By Isaac Trotter|For the Press

DOWNS - It was senior night for the Tri-Valley lady Vikings as they honored their lone senior, Destini Melton. 

But the young Vikings couldn’t take down the Blue Ridge Knights who coasted to a 60-38 road victory.

The Lady Vikes started two freshmen and two sophomores and  jumped out to an early 6-2 lead thanks to two early treys from freshman Lily Young. 

The experienced Knights — who had four seniors in the starting lineup — came out a little slow after their emotional senior night victory just three days prior. 

Blue Ridge senior Haley Ester and junior Elizabeth Bowns were the lone bright spots in the opening half. 

Ester scored eight of her 10 points while Bowns came off the bench to score four first-quarter points and rip down seven rebounds.

Tri-Valley sophomore Lisbeth Kussmann scored five first-half points and a jumper just before the buzzer by junior Hannah Rudsinski brought the Vikes to within 30-22 at the half. 

Blue Ridge head coach Drew O’Connell called his team’s play “ugly” in the first half as it was frequently marred with turnovers. 

“I think they were just disappointed at halftime. I didn’t go in there and yell at them because I knew they were frustrated and there’s no point to beat a dead horse,” O’Connell said. 

The Knights responded in the third quarter as senior Alex Specht came alive with nine points. Her biggest basket occurred when she buried a three from the left-wing to beat the third quarter buzzer. The shot gave Blue Ridge a 48-26 lead heading into the final quarter. 

“I think Alex really stepped it up when we were in la la land,” O’Connell said. “I think the crowd got to us a little but she ramped it up like all good players do and she knows that she needs to play at a high level for us to advance in postseason play next week.”

Josie Grammer once again played solid for the visitors as her 15 points were second only to Specht’s game-high 21. Grammer added seven assists while Specht nearly missed a triple-double as she filled the stat sheet with eight rebounds and seven assists.

Tri-Valley’s winless campaign continued as they fell to 0-21 and 0-13 in HOI conference play before a Monday night upset in regional play. 

Kussmann led the way with nine points while Young finished with eight and sophomore Marissa Foley had seven.

The win gave Blue Ridge a 5-8 record in conference play as they clinched a winning season by improving to 15-12, breaking a steak of 12 straight years without finishing above .500.    

But the Knights aren’t finished yet as they prepare for a Class 2A regional showdown with St. Thomas More.

“St. Thomas More is very athletic. I think if we can slow the game down like we have against quicker more athletic teams, then we’ll be successful,” O’Connell said. “If we can grab the tempo of the game, then we’ll have a good shot. We’re definitely the hungrier team so that will play into our favor as well.”

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