By Michael Rich
Teays Valley parlayed a 10-0 start and a 13-2 first quarter into a 59-39 win over visiting Big Walnut in the first round of the Central District girls basketball tournament Saturday afternoon in Asheville.
Shayna Harmon, Baylee Kuhlwein and the Vikings (17-6) proved to be too much for the Golden Eagles. Harmon led all scorers with 25 points, six assists and four steals. She also added six boards.
“I thought we battled defensively,” BW coach Steve Palmer said. “I thought we played hard. Harmon is a good player. She doesn’t get good just by showing up — she works hard at her game.”
Kuhlwein, meanwhile, connected on five three-pointers and finished with 19 points. She had a game-high eight rebounds and four steals and added four assist for the Vikings.
Eagles freshman post Kelsie Imertreijs scored nine of her team-high 12 points to help her team stay in the game in the second quarter. Imertreijs and Ellie Jindra led Big Walnut with seven rebounds apiece.
“Imertreijs had a heck of game as a freshman,” Palmer said. “I think we can build on that.”
The Eagles (8-15) pulled it as close as seven twice during the contest, but could not get closer. Each time, the Vikings used a run to push it back to double-digits.
“I thought we played pretty well defensively — with a lot of energy,” Palmer said. “(Teays Valley) just executed a little better. I don’t know if they wanted it any more than we did, but they just executed better.”
Kelly Kreager hit a three before Paige Norman found Imertreijs underneath to cut a 16-4 deficit to seven midway through the second quarter.
But Kuhlwein and Harmon each hit threes to push the lead back to 11. Kuhlwein hit her third three of the quarter (and fourth of the half) to extend the Vikings’ lead to 31-17.
“That was kind of a back-breaker — they’re all back-breakers,” Palmer said. “They shot the ball pretty well.”
Taryn Hammond responded a couple of possessions later by beating the first-half buzzer with a three of her own to pull the Eagles to a 31-21 halftime deficit.
“I thought we did a great job battling back there,” Palmer said. “Taryn hit that shot before the half. That was a good lift going into the (locker) room.”
Hammond opened the second half with another three to cut the deficit to seven. Hammond finished with six points and three assists.
Harmon picked up a steal and converted it into a layup and then found Turner Davis for three to quickly push the lead back to 12 for the Vikings, who led 39-27 through three quarters. Harmon converted all four of her steals into layups.
Meredith Keel scored all six of her points during a 6-0 run that bridged the third and fourth quarters to extend TV’s lead to 43-27 early in the fourth.
But Big Walnut scored 10 of the next 12 points, including a 5-for-6 effort at the line, to get back into the game. Kelly Kreager hit a three before finding Imertreijs underneath for another basket to make it 45-37.
The Vikings closed 14-2 going 9-for-10 at the line to seal the win.
The Eagles took a step back this season after finishing 12-11 last season and 14-8 in 2013-14. They lose seniors Rachel Brown and Colleen White.
“We got to get better individually and collectively as a team,” Palmer said. “It’s tough — you tell your seniors that you’re sad that you don’t get to see them anymore. They’ve been around for four years (and) you get attached to them — you get used to them and the other players get used to them.”
But Palmer believes that the future looks good for BW. They featured four sophomores and two freshmen that played significant time during the season.
“We’ve got a lot of youth on our side,” Palmer said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that play a lot of different sports … and I’m OK with that, but at the same time, they’ve got to put the time in for our (sport).”
Markie Wippel added four rebounds for TV.
Teays Valley hosts Watkins Memorial in the second round of the district tournament Friday night at 7 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.