LANSING | All season long, Illiana Christian coach Dave Bosman has been preaching the importance of finishing games strong.
His team responded to the message Wednesday night against Timothy Christian.
After building a 16-point lead late in the third quarter, the Vikings allowed the Trojans to trim that lead to 10 with just over five minutes to play.
But this time the Vikings (4-8, 1-4 Metro Suburban Conference) settled things down and put the game away with strong defense down the stretch.
“We’ve talked about learning how to win and how to finish games,” Bosman said. “Tonight we did it, the girls made a couple key passes for easy layups and we played defense with our feet tonight and not our hands. We didn’t commit any stupid fouls the last few minutes to let them back in the game.”
It took the Vikings over five minutes to get on the score board but after the slow start the Illiana began to pressure Timothy Christian and force turnovers that eventually led to a big lead.
“We were forcing turnovers early but we weren’t finishing our shots,” Bosman said. “Sometimes when you’re struggling the basket seems like it has a lid on it, when we finally hit a couple shots and got some confidence everything settled down and we started playing better.”
Illiana played aggressive all night and came up with 20 steals, many of which lead to fast-break points that allowed the Vikings to control the tempo of the game and keep the Trojans (3-7, 2-3 Metro Suburban Conference) on their heels.
Freshmen Gabby Kreykes (22 points) and Bria Cole (14 points) sparked the turnaround late in the first with six steals to help turn a 4-0 deficit into an 18-4 lead.
“We stepped up our defense,” Cole said. “We were getting steals and rebounds and pushing the ball on the fast break.”
While Cole and Kreykes were the offense, senior Tiffany Groen was the glue that held the whole thing together for the Vikings scoring seven points to go along with seven steals and five assists.
“The team looks to Tiffany for leadership,” Bosman said. “We have to have her on the floor. When she’s not out there the level of intensity goes down.
With the victory Illiana has now surpassed last season’s win total of and hope that Wednesday was a sign of good things to come.
“It feels really good to get this win,” Groen said. “This is going to be a turnaround in our season, we just have to continue to play determined and keep our priorities straight, and we have to keep playing for our teammates and not for ourselves.”