Little trumps big in key IVC match-up of Garaway and Malvern

Two great guards in Sydney Mullet (left) and Hunter Martin went at it, but Garaway emerged victorious in a key IVC game

The Garaway Lady Pirates wanted to push the issue, while the visiting Hornets of Malvern wanted to stand and pound the ball down inside in a classic confrontation of two of the Inter-Valley Conference’s better programs Saturday, Dec. 10 in Sugarcreek.

Malvern wanted to utilize its huge advantage with Kelsi Hulit who towered over Garaway, while the Lady Pirates wanted to press, speed up the game and make the Hornets turn it over.

In a game where both teams got a lot of what they wanted, what really made the difference was Garaway’s early lead in the game’s first minutes, a lead they would make stand in a 67-56 victory.

“I loved our intensity and focus right from the tip,” Garaway coach Dave Shutt said. “We were ready. If we don’t come out with that intensity, and get that big lead, it might be a very different story.”

Hailey Shutt split a pair of free throws on Garaway’s first trip down the floor, the Lady P’s pressure then turned into a Sydney Mullet 3-pointer, and Shutt’s steal and pass to Chelsi Rothacher and another Rothacher bucket inside made it 8-0 before the Hornets could even take a breath.

But once Doug Wackerly’s Hornets were able to take a breath and get their wits about them in a time-out, the two teams settled into a physical game that was evenly played the rest of the way.

Malvern (4-1) hit two out of four free throws, and after Kallie Regula rained home a trey to make it 11-2, Hulit scored on an and-one. Zoe Johnson split a pair of free throws for Garaway (4-1), and Hulit tacked on a pair of free throws before Hunter Martin made a steal and a lay-up to trim the Garaway lead to 12-9.

Mullet answered with a drive, Shutt split two free throws and Maddie Steiner score to end the quarter with Garaway leading 17-9. The lead surged to 10 when Shutt banged home a jumper, and Garaway took command again when Mullet scored twice to make it 25-13.

It was at that point Garaway’s quickness and pressure began making it look like it might be an easy day for the Lady Pirates. Mullet connected on a trey, and then did it again. Shutt scored on a pair of free throws off another steal, and when she lit the net again on a jumper, Garaway had extended the lead to 18 at 37-19.

However, Malvern got two big scores late in the half, including a score from Hulit inside and a jumper from Tara Tucci, to close to within 37-23 at the half.

Those shots gave the Hornets some much-needed momentum, and they took advantage of a Garaway team that has had issues closing out games thus far this year.

“We had a little hiccup early in the third quarter, and they are a very good team and made us pay,” Shutt said. “It was nice to see us really execute when we got challenged though. We are still young and we have things we need to work on, but we did a good job responded to their run.”

The speedy Martin connected on a runner in the lane, then bombed in a triple to start the second half. When Tucci added a 3-pointer, the Hornets were quickly back to within six at 37-31. The teams traded buckets until the final break, with Garaway’s lead at 44-38.

“We did a great job of coming out with a purpose and played our way back into the game, but we aren’t very deep, and we exerted a ton of energy just trying to get back into the game,” Wackerly noted. “We wore down physically a bit, and it cost us against their pressure.”

With the score at 49-43 after a Martin jumper, Garaway used its depth, speed and pressure to slowly pull away, and it all began with a huge triple from Steiner, who was playing a magnificent game. A 10-2 run made it 59-45, and Steiner had her fingerprints all over it.

“I don’t like to be selfish, and so I like setting up my teammates, but I found myself open a couple of times and took advantage,” Steiner said. “I thought we really came to play today as a team.”

Malvern was never really able to mount a threat after that, the game continuing to hang around that 10 to 11 point edge for Garaway, which is where the final score ended up, as Garaway made eight straight free throws to keep Malvern at bay getting four from Mullet and two apiece from Kaitlyn Stress and Steiner.

“Our on-ball defense was really bad today,” Wackerly said. “It’s something we have struggled with at times this year. I thought we did some of what we wanted to do in pounding the ball down low to Kelci, but we didn’t defend well enough.”

Garaway struggled to match up with Hulit inside, and Shutt said they tried a number of different defenses to try to limit her touches, but Hulit made Garaway pay on a number of occasions.

But in the end, Garaway’s pressure and depth proved to be more than enough to slide past a big challenge.

“It’s no secret that we aren’t very big, so we have to try to come up with some creative ways to defend kids like that,” Shutt said.

Malvern got a monster night from Hulit, who scored 20 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, five of them on the offensive end. Martin was also a key contributor, scoring 21 points to pace Malvern, while Tucci added nine and Mackenzie Haidd scored four.

“We felt we could come in here and sneak out a win, but Coach Shutt did a heck of a job with his offense,” Wackerly said. “We made too many little mistakes, and hopefully we can clean those up before the next time we face them. I liked our effort in getting back in the game, but we can’t make a 15-point play, and just trying to get back into after falling behind early cost us.”

Garaway was led in scoring again by Mullet, who tied Martin with a game-high 21-point night that included three treys. Shutt added 16 points, while Steiner chipped in with 11 points and added a team-high five rebounds. Regula scored seven points, Rothacher added six, Johnson scored four and Stress had two for the winners.

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