MECCA - In a game Thursday night between Maplewood and Grand Valley that was closer than the final score, Miranda Sloan and Jessica Vormelker put their respective teams on their backs and engaged in a fourth-quarter dual.
Each player finished with 25 points, with Sloan scoring 11 in the fourth and Vormelker having 10. Sloan finished with 19 points in the second half, while Vormelker scored 14 of Grand Valley's 17.
Sloan got more help than Vormelker, and the Rockets came away with a hard-fought 52-40 victory to continue their strong, late-season run.
"I just think we worked the ball very well," Sloan said. "One of our main scorers, Allison Bell, she has a bum arm (right elbow injury), so I knew I had to step up."
Vormelker said teamwork was the key to her big scoring night.
"Obviously, we didn't get the outcome we wanted, but scoring is scoring," she said. "I wouldn't have been able to do it without my teammates."
"Miranda's one of those girls who stepped up when I asked them at halftime in the locker room," Maplewood coach Mark Yoder said. "Miranda decided, if you want someone to step up it might as well be me."
Yoder added that while Vormelker had a huge night for the Mustangs, his team was more complete which led to the victory.
"We know Jessica can score. She's very creative with the ball," he said. "We didn't think one player could beat us."
With Maplewood (15-3, 10-1 Northeastern Athletic Conference, Stars Division) trailing 23-22 at halftime, Sloan came right out in the third quarter as the Rockets took control of the game. She hit a 3-pointer for a 29-26 lead, then made another to extend Maplewood's advantage to 34-27.
"Defensively, we were playing really hard," Grand Valley coach Kim Triskett said of the first half. "We were doing a nice job in terms of getting rebounds defensively and taking care of Brooke (Dawson, who scored 15 points). As we got to the second half, Miranda Sloan took over."
Yoder said a tactical change was the key to turning the game around in the second half.
"Our defense was a big part of it," he said. "We switched up from a man to man to our matchup zone defense. The other big part was we actually made some shots. We were kind of cole in the first half. Second half, we took our time, and we were taking open shots and knocking them down."
In the fourth quarter, Sloan kept it going. She had a steal and a layup for a 43-31 lead, which was the Rockets' largest up to that point. With less than 3 minutes to play, she made two free throws to give Maplewood a 50-37 margin.
With her team struggling to stay close, Vormelker at one point in the third and fourth quarters scored 12 consecutive points for Grand Valley (13-7, 4-7 NAC Stars). Despite getting called for her fourth foul with 3:10 left, she remained in the game until the end.
Sloan and Vormelker have been playing against each other for the last several years and both have high praise for the other.
"She's a great player. I have a lot of respect for that girl," Sloan said. "She practices all the time, she's an awesome player. She's in my grade so our senior year we're going to be battling."
"Back in middle school, I remember she was always that girl that we had to watch out for," Vormelker said. "She's a great point guard. She's so quick. We play against each other so we know each other's games a little bit."