REESE — The Reese girls’ basketball team led for most of its season opener Monday against Saginaw Valley Lutheran.
But if the Rockets weren’t leading, it was because of SVL sharp shooter Kateln Engelhardt. And two of those non-leading moments came at the most inopportune times — the final second of regulation and the last 10 seconds of overtime.
The Chargers won 57-56 in overtime of the non-league clash, on the opening night of Michigan high school girls’ basketball.
Engelhardt, a 5-foot-11 junior point guard, led all scorers with 24 points, but it was her last eight points that sunk the Rockets. With Reese leading 51-49, and time winding down in the fourth quarter, Engelhardt’s layup trickled through the bottom of the net as the clock expired.
Then in overtime, she scored all six of her squad’s points, including a mid-range jump shot that hit home with 10 seconds remaining to give SVL a 57-56 lead, and cap the come-from-behind effort.
“(Engelhardt is a) very good player, and we knew Valley would be a very good team,” said Reese coach Josh Pickell. “They only lost one senior last year and we only beat them by three, so we knew they would bring it and we got the game we thought we would.”
The Rockets finished the first half, behind key performances from Abbey Ackerman, Madison Thompson and Taylor Findlay, on a 13-2 run to take a 29-24 lead into halftime. Reese extended the edge to 11 points in the third quarter and finished the stanza with a 41-33 lead. But the Chargers came storming back in the final frame.
“Defensively, we’re not there yet,” Pickell said. “Coming off ball screens is definitely something we’ll work on. But there were plenty of positives tonight, we’ll work on some things and we’ll be a different team.”
Among the positives was the play of Ackerman, Thompson and Findlay.
Reese graduated just two players from last year’s district winner and Greater Thumb West championship team — but they were pretty important cogs. Six-foot-3 center, and honorable mention all-stater Emily Fleischmann and second-leading scorer Maddie Coulter. The good news is the Rockets return eight players from last year’s rotation, including returning starters Carlee Selle, Findlay and Ackerman.
Findlay, the team’s point guard, had six points, five assists, three rebounds and two steals in the first half and finished the contest with 14 points, six assists and six rebounds. Ackerman drilled four three-pointers, including three in the first half, and scored a team-high 15 points. Thompson, a sophomore post player, is new to the varsity but cracked the starting lineup and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Findlay is a second-year starter at point guard, Just a sophomore, she was voted team captain this year along with Selle and Kelly Ratajczak.
“(Findlay’s) gotten so much better from last year,” Pickell said. “And if she keeps working, she can get even better.”
Selle, a senior who recently signed to play softball for Division 1 Kent St., added seven points and nine rebounds for the Rockets while Thompson and Tori Gunlock each scored six.
Kennedi Maurer had eight points for SVL while Grace Hearth led the Chargers in rebounding with 10.