GREENVILLE — The Greenville Yellow Jackets girls basketball team won a conference title last year for the first time since 1990.
On Friday night, the Yellow Jackets took a another step toward winning a second consecutive O-K Bronze title with a 51-40 win over Forest Hills Eastern (9-5, 3-1).
They did so on “Hunt for a Cure” night in Greenville. The fifth annual event is a fundraiser to raise cancer awareness and funds for the Pediatric Oncology Resource Team Greenville and the Spectrum Health United Hospital Cancer Center.
Greenville led for most of the game, but found themselves down 34-31 midway through the fourth quarter against a relentless Hawks team.
“We were worried about rust since we haven’t played in a week and a half and the kids haven’t been in school,” Greenville coach Eric Nichols said. “We talked about not making any excuses.”
There wasn’t a need for excuses as the Yellow Jackets closed out the game with a 20-6 run.
First, Landon Kemp and Leah Somerfield hit 3-of-4 free throws to tie the game. Somerfield followed that up with a layup for a two-point lead. After Eastern tied the game at 36, Mackenzie Bell drained a three-pointer from the corner to put the Yellow Jackets in high gear.
Greenville (9-2, 4-0) went on a 10-1 spurt for a 49-37 lead. Paige Hallock hit two shots, while the Yellow Jackets added six free throws.
“Five minutes left, down three and we didn’t panic. That’s what these seniors do. They don’t panic and lead,” Nichols said.
Greenville nailed 12-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter to help seal the game. They went just 9-of-19 through the first three quarters.
“We expected the game to be physical,” Nichols said. “We were disappointed we didn’t bucket early with really good looks. Our goal was to get to the line. We were not good at the line early, but we were late.
“We want to live at the free throw line. If we get to the line that’s good offense,” Nichols said.
Nichols credited senior Madison Sorsen for helping in the win. She did so from the sideline.
“Maddie Sorsen was instrumental. She didn’t play a lot, but she sits there and suggests,” Nichols said. “She suggested something and we went with it. It really turned the momentum in the fourth quarter.”
Greenville jumped out to a 14-8 lead after the first quarter and led 22-20 at halftime. The Yellow Jackets held a four-point advantage entering the fourth quarter before surrendering the lead briefly.
“I thought we did some things very well, but we didn’t score the ball like we should have early,” Nichols said. “We didn’t make free throws early, we missed some easy ones early, but what I like about this team is they have grit.”
Somerfield finished with a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. Kemp added 17 points and five steals. Hallock finished with seven points, while Kylee Moody had four steals.
The Yellow Jackets remain in first place in the O-K Bronze by a half game over Forest Hills Northern. Greenville will travel to Forest Hills Northern on Friday.
“You have to be ready to go in the O-K Bronze,” Nichols said. “We know we will get everyone’s best. We know that. The girls are mentally prepared.”
Greenville will face the Lowell Red Arrows at home on Monday at 6 p.m.
Boys win in overtime
The Greenville Yellow Jackets boys basketball team followed up the girls win with a dramatic win of their own.
Parker Syrjala knocked down 18-of-19 free throws as Greenville defeated the Forest Hills Eastern Hawks 78-73 in overtime on Friday.
Ian Cooper added 18 points, while Ryan Davis finished with 14 points.
Greenville trailed after each of the first three quarters and were down 51-50 entering the fourth quarter. Greenville led for most of the fourth quarter, but the Hawks rallied late to tie the game at 66 and force overtime.
Greenville will face the Lowell Red Arrows on Monday at home at 7:30 p.m.