History repeated itself on Tuesday night as the St. Thomas More girls' basketball team continued a winning streak over Douglas dating back to 2007.
The similarities ended there. In previous games the Cavaliers have won typically by margins of 20 points or more. But a determined band of Douglas ladies pushed nearly to the limit before the Cavaliers scrapped and clawed their way to a 64-56 victory at Douglas High School.
Down by 11 at halftime (28-17) and nine (48-41) entering the final frame, Douglas closed the lead to 51-49 on a Jeslyn Jindra basket before the Cavaliers were able to crank up the defense down the stretch and knock down clutch free throw in the final moments to seal the victory.
“I knew they would play us tough since they’ve been playing well lately,” Cavalier coach Brandon Kandolin said. “They have some great components. (Jordynn) Toliver is a tough one to handle and it seems like you take her away and they have some girls who can hit it from the outside, and that is a good combination.”
Toliver, a team-high 20 points and 3-pointers galore by the Patriots — 11 in the game and nine in the second half — were a tough chore indeed. But the Cavalier’s Haleigh Timmer was up to the task, answering Douglas time and again on her way to a game-high 30 points, including a perfect 13-for-13 from the free-throw line, including six down the stretch with the game on the line.
“She is definitely a catalyst for us,” Kandolin said. “She has the ability to make shots from both outside and inside. And we definitely needed the free throws tonight (the Cavaliers were 26-of-33) because every time we got a little lead, they seemed to bounce back and keep the game close.”
Both teams played solid defense throughout the night and points came dearly as the teams battled to a nine-all tie after one quarter of play, a situation aided perhaps by the fact that Timmer picked up two quick fouls and exited to the bench with six minutes left in the first period.
A Trinity Kistler 10-foot jumper midway through the second period gave Douglas its last lead of the night at 15-14, though Timmer returned and hit a couple of buckets and Ciara Benson and Kaci Cooper added hoops propelling St. Thomas More to a 28-17 lead at halftime.
Both teams went to the 3-ball in the third quarter with Timmer and Skylar Sullivan draining treys for More and Nique High Hawk and Jindra lighting it up from deep in the corner for Douglas, each knocking down three bombs in the quarter. Toliver added a 3-pointer as well as the talented senior went over 1,000 points in her career.
A Mikayla Grim 3-pointer and a conversion in the lane by Tolliver drew the Patriots to within 48-46. Lizzy Elder drew a foul on an offensive rebound and converted a free throw and Benson scored on a put-back to put the Cavaliers up by a 51-46 score, though another Patriot 3-pointer by Jindra again narrowed the lead to 51-49.
“I’m really proud of our team and the effort they put forth tonight,” Patriot coach Duane Wince said. “St. Thomas More is a really great team that is well-coached, but we hung with them. They were able to score more from the free-throw line late in the game and that was the big difference."
A mainstay of Cavalier success over the years has been aggressive man defense that consistently results in opponents struggling to close out games as was evident on Tuesday night.
“For the most part we played good defense, particularly in the first half holding them to 17 points,” Kandolin said. “But this is a couple games now that teams have just went off on us. This is three or four games now when teams have knocked down eight or more treys against us and that will keep anybody in the game.”
Douglas (8-7) closed out the home portion of the schedule on Tuesday night, and wrap up the regular season with five road games beginning with a 6:30 pm. encounter with Spearfish on Thursday night.
St. Thomas More (13-4) concludes the home court schedule on Friday, hosting Hot Springs at 7:30 p.m.