By Jake Thompson
AVON — At 1-4 and heading into a very difficult stretch of its schedule without a home game in sight, the Avon Orioles girls’ basketball team desperately needed a win.
Playing against the visiting McCutcheon Mavericks Saturday afternoon, the Orioles took a 51-49 victory.
“We needed that, as we haven’t had the chance to play with a lead that much ... it’s good to win a tight game,” Avon coach David Cupp said. “We tried to do some things to give (McCutcheon) the basketball. We took a couple of bad shots at the end and missed some free throws. I couldn’t be more happy for the kids. They did such a great job of just competing, especially when things weren’t go so well for us offensively.”
Freshman Shelle Daniels fulfilled Cupp’s premonition the day before by scoring 20 points to lead the Orioles while pulling down eight rebounds. McCutcheon had no answer for Daniels’ post play when she received the ball down low.
“I told my assistant I thought (Daniels) would have 20 to 25 today,” Cupp said with a smile. “She’s really done a good job for us just learning. She’s taken a lot of my coaching and encouragement to get her to play hard. I was happy and really tickled for her today. She was a presence and they couldn’t guard her.”
Also helping spearhead the Orioles’ effort were senior Megan Price and sophomore Brooke Peters. Cupp said Price played through a hip injury and Peters continues to play at a high level.
“I’m real proud of Megan, she’s been injured and played a lot of minutes for us and was a real leader out there today,” he said. “After missing everything in the first three quarters, Brooke stepped up and hit a huge three-pointer there at the end for us. That’s toughness.”
Peters dropped in two free throws to begin the game’s scoring and Avon built an 11-4 lead, its largest of the contest. McCutcheon fought back and closed to within two at 12-10 heading into the second quarter.
The Mavericks began the second with a 7-0 run before the Orioles responded with an 8-0 run of their own.
After a three-pointer by McCutcheon’s Tori Blumling tied the game at 20, the two squads battled for momentum heading to the half with the Mavericks taking a 27-25 advantage at the break.
Poor shooting hurt the Orioles throughout the first two periods as they went 8 of 25 from the field and 1 of 7 from behind the arc. That trend did not improve in the third as Avon put up a paltry 4 of 19 from the floor.
“Things weren’t going well for us offensively and we just missed so many shots,” Cupp said.
But the team’s free throw shooting helped them stay in the game when shots were not falling.
The Orioles finished the day with 14 of 23 from the charity stripe compared to the Mavericks who went 2 of 9.
Trailing 40-35 heading into the fourth, Cupp gathered his squad and coached them up. That helped spur the Orioles on a game-changing 10-0 run to open the fourth and Avon never looked back.
“Well, all runs are big and I didn’t realize it was that much,” Cupp said. “I told our kids they had a decision to make. We came out in the third just lifeless and flat. I said ‘It’s your game, go get it.’ I thought they came with a lot more energy.”
Although McCutcheon tied it up at 45 with 2:11 remaining, Peters’ first 3-pointer of the game 26 seconds later gave Avon the lift it needed. Price hit two free throws in the closing seconds of the quarter, putting Avon up 50-47.
Peters’ free throw with 8.6 seconds left gave her team a 51-49 advantage and McCutcheon’s last shot attempt rattled in and out of the rim before falling to the floor.
Avon’s next home game is Jan. 10 against Pike.