For nearly three quarters of Friday’s game, the top girls’ basketball team in the Mississippi Athletic Conference seemed to be in a daze.
But an offensive rebound and an old-fashioned three-point play by Adrea Arthofer late in the third seemed to break Class 5A No. 4 Pleasant Valley out of its funk, sparking a run that pushed the Spartans to a 53-45 win at Davenport Assumption.
“I thought our energy changed when she got that,” Pleasant Valley head coach Jennifer Goetz said of Arthofer’s hustle play. “For the first time, we had a little burst of energy that I didn’t see us have (before that).”
The Spartans (15-0, 12-0 MAC) were trailing the Class 3A seventh-ranked Knights by three points when Arthofer tracked down Carli Spelhaug’s missed 3-pointer and put it back up and in while being fouled. She sank the free throw to tie the game.
“We have really great scorers like Ellie (Spelhaug), Kira (Arthofer) and Carli who are going to come out and score every night, but I know my job is to play scrappy and get whatever points I can get here and there to contribute,” Adrea Arthofer said. “So when I saw that shot go up and I realized no one was on me, I knew that was my board and I had to go up with that. That’s what my team needed me to do.”
Bailey Brown, who scored 14 points to lead the Knights (9-6, 8-4 MAC), side-stepped a Pleasant Valley defender and sank a 3-pointer at the other end to put Assumption back ahead, but Carli Spelhaug sank a 3-pointer to again tie the game. Then Kira Arthofer came up with a steal and banked in a runner in the closing seconds of the third quarter to give the Spartans a 37-35 lead heading into the final period.
Pleasant Valley wouldn’t trail again. Carli Spelhaug opened the fourth quarter with another 3-pointer, and after reserve Macy Beinborn made two free throws, Rory Donahue hit her third 3-pointer of the season to push the Spartans’ lead to nine points. From there, the Spartans made enough free throws to seal their 15th win of the season.
“We were flat-footed tonight,” Goetz said. “I didn’t think we brought our Pleasant Valley girls energy that we normally do. I thought mentally we weren’t really there tonight. But we did enough to win. We got big spurts when we needed them. We hit big shots when we needed to. We got enough defensive stops. We made enough free throws to win. But we’ve got a lot of things we still have to work on, that’s for sure.”
Pleasant Valley, which entered Friday’s game shooting 47.5 percent from the field on the season, overcame a tough shooting night where the Spartans’ hit just over 30 percent (15-for-49) from the floor and went 4-for-26 from 3-point range.
“The ball couldn’t find the bottom of the basket,” Goetz said. “It happens sometimes. You’ve got to fight through it. Which is where our defense came in. We got enough defensive stops to win.”
Kira Arthofer had a tough shooting night, going 0-for-7 from beyond the arc, but made free throws late in the game to finish with a team-high 14 points. Ellie Spelhaug added 12 points and nine rebounds, and Carli Spelhaug had 11 points.
Brown hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight points in the period as Assumption took an 18-12 lead after eight minutes of play.
“I was pretty happy with the intensity and effort they came out with,” Assumption head coach Katelyn McNamara said. “We wanted to get every rebound. We wanted to have quick shots. And fortunately in the first half those shots were falling. Defensively, we were containing them and keeping them off the boards, and they were getting a little frustrated. It was a great first half.”
But Brown picked up her third personal foul in the closing seconds of the first quarter and was forced to sit the rest of the half. The Knights missed her offensive firepower, and Pleasant Valley tied the score by halftime.
After defeating the Knights by 31 points on Dec. 5, a tie score at the break was a bit of an eye-opener for the Spartans.
“It was definitely humbling,” Adrea Arthofer said. “It’s one of those things where we know we’re a really great team, but we also can’t go into games complacent. We have to go in and know we’re the best team, but we have to prove that again and again and again.”