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Warriors fend off Vikings to win season opener

TORN AWAY: North Miami’s Maryann Freeman (L) keeps the ball away from North White’s Lynzi Heimlich (R) late in Saturday’s girls’ basketball opener for both schools. Freeman led all scorers with 19 points, including a crucial five-point swing after the score was tied at 36-36, to help the Warriors start the season with a win after a 47-39 victory over the Vikings.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

North Miami started its girls’ basketball campaign like a house of fire Saturday afternoon against A No. 18 North White.

It took a grinding effort after the first quarter, however, to make sure the Warriors opened the season 1-0 as the offense was stagnant in the middle quarters, coming back to life in the final frame to see off the Vikings 47-39.

The win was the first as North Miami head coach for Lori Working, who was excited for the girls to pick up the win.

“I can’t be more proud of the girls,” Working said. “I’m ecstatic they started off with a win, especially against a program like (North White).”

The hosts flew out of the traps to start the game as the three-headed attack of Maryann Freeman, Bailey Keim and Hannah Hall punished North White, combining to score 18 of North Miami’s 20 first quarter points.

Olivia Allen provided the only reply for the Vikings, managing six points in the period, but beyond that, the hosts were first to everything on the floor and led 20-8 after eight minutes.

The only drawback from such an explosive start was maintaining that energy level would be difficult for another eight minutes and by the halftime horn, North White had found its way back into the game.

North Miami led 26-11 but a combination of fatigue and fouls piling up saw the team have to reel in the aggressive style that gave it the lead.

The Vikings were able to capitalize as Allen added seven more points and the visitors closed the half on an 11-0 run to cut a 15-point deficit down to four at 26-22.

Working said the defense was in the right spots in the second quarter but the players were a little bit slow to react, getting into foul trouble in a way they didn’t need to do.

“The girls haven’t been through the kind of practices they’ve been through these first few weeks and a lot of it is conditioning,” Working noted. “We told them in the first quarter, they’d probably blow the other team away.

“As it went on, we were where we were supposed to be but got lazy, started reaching and not moving our feet.”

Both teams struggled to get going in the third quarter with both teams trying to feel their way through the period.

Lynzi Heimlich scored both Viking baskets though Hall was able to counter with a three and Freeman knocked down a free throw, leaving the four-point gap intact as the two teams headed into the final quarter.

With starters Kendra Donaldson on four fouls, Hall joining her as the period went on, and both Freeman and Taylor Tinney on three apiece, Working said the much of the quarter was spent walking a tightrope,

“We talked to the girls in the third quarter about the foul situation,” Working said. “We were playing around that as best we could.”

Hall picked up her fifth foul thirty seconds in to the frame though Keim and Freeman were able to keep things ticking along, increasing the North Miami lead by a bucket at 36-30.

North White would score the next six points to tie the game, two baskets coming within seconds after Chandelle Valdizon scored from close range and Allen stole the ensuing inbounds pass, laying the ball up to cut the gap to two.

Freeman, who finished with a game-high 19 points, broke the tie with a three-point play and another basket, extending the lead back out to five at 41-36.

During the Vikings’ 6-0 stretch, Tinney picked up her fifth foul and shortly thereafter, Donaldson also fouled out, leaving the Warriors with only six available players.

Freshman Shyloe Hunt had already been involved in the action but the third foul out forced Audrey Piel to also enter the fray to close out the game.

Keim, who added 15 points, gave the hosts an eight-point cushion to work with and both freshmen did their part on defense to help maintain the gap.

Hunt also picked up an important offensive rebound off a missed free throw, a play Working gushed about afterwards.

“I can’t be more excited for Shyloe getting that rebound,” Working said. “Here she is, a freshman who’s scared to death to get out there, in a big situation.

“She also made a nice pass to Maryann and that’s knowing the game. She does a lot of things right; we just need to get her and the younger kids playing.”

North Miami was able to keep possession for long stretches in the final few minutes and North White had no response as the Warriors started the season with an eight-point win.

“We told Maryann and Bailey to take care of the ball up top and if an open lane came, attack,” Working said in the closing minutes. “We told (Shyloe and Audrey) to set picks and not get called for a moving screen.

“For playing a team that was 20-5 last year, won four-straight sectionals, has a great program with a coach that works with his kids coming up, to start with a victory is awesome. It shows where we are, and we’ve got a lot to work on, but it’s great to open the season with a win with this group of girls.”

North Miami will look to go 2-0 Friday when the team hosts Taylor.

The Titans battled the Warriors hard last season and have additional size and firepower in their ranks this season  but Working said the goal Friday remained the same.

“My thing is, on the home court, don’t lose,” Working said. “Own your court.

“We’ll prepare for Taylor Friday and go from there.”