BELDING — After losing its best player to an injury and its head coach to a questionable ejection, one might think Belding would have folded against NorthPointe Christian on Friday.
After losing senior guard Hallee Breimayer in the second quarter after she rolled an ankle after hitting a 3-pointer to put the Redskins up 29-14 in the second quarter, things were looking a little bleak for Belding (8-7 overall, 5-2 Ottawa-Kent Silver Conference).
Belding continued to hold its own, leading 38-20 at halftime, but with 4:53 to play in the third quarter, Redskins coach Conner Hoke was given a technical foul after arguing a call with the referee. The team would also get a bench foul moments later, however, the referee ejected Hoke, which made the home crowd erupt.
With their star player sidelined for the rest of the game and their coach sent to the locker room, there was an air of wonder if the Mustangs (7-6 overall, 3-4 O-K Silver) would climb back into the game.
That wonder was quickly wiped out, thanks to the leadership and long-range shooting of junior Lexi Pilkinton — who finished with 16 points — and a few others who stepped up.
After missing her first five 3-point shots, Pilkinton, a three-year varsity player and backup point guard, nailed the next three 3-pointers to snuff any doubt the Redskins would hold on for the win.
“We were just trying to stay in it together. The biggest part is just being a team and trying to get past Hallee’s injury, even though she’s our biggest scorer and the best point guard we have,” said Pilkinton, who finished with 16 points, three rebounds, two steals and two assists.”
In true leadership fashion, Pilkinton praised her teammates, as well.
“I’m second up. I had to really step up and play to the potential I know how to play,” she said. “(Olivia Stephan) was right there, I had Emily (Byrne) right there and Erin (Rich) stepped up big time tonight.”
Hoke was pleased to see his team didn’t fall apart, but actually persevered.
“We could’ve easily just folded when Hallee went out. But you know what, they took the challenge and executed it. They played well,” Hoke said. “Lexi played phenomenal tonight, Olivia did great as a leader, Erin played well. Top to bottom, we all played well tonight.”
Breimayer, who was on fire before she was injured, was able to score 19 points and had four steals and three rebounds.
Hoke said Breimayer is questionable for Friday’s game against Godwin Heights. Despite Breimayer’s absence, Hoke said his team executed what had been a lingering problem earlier in the season.
“Earlier on in the season, we would’ve turned the ball over and threw the ball away, but we’ve been working on that all season and we were strong with the ball and we took care of the ball,” he said. “That was huge for us tonight.”
Belding’s Avery German finished with nine points and eight rebounds, followed by Stephan with nine points (5-of-5 from the free throw line) and eight rebounds. Byrne finished with six points and four rebounds. Rich had two points and five rebounds.
The Mustangs were led by sophomore center Kaycee Sluiter, who finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks and senior guard Izzy Redfield with 12 points and three steals.