BY JEREMY SCHNEIDER | MIRROR SPORTS — The odds appeared to be stacked against the Maumee girls basketball team heading into last week’s game against Rossford.
Despite missing one of their starters as she continues to recover from an injury and being without head coach Rafael Soler, who was out with illness, the Panthers showed they can win even in less-than-perfect situations.
Maumee broke open a tie game at halftime with a dominant third quarter, sending the Bulldogs packing with a 48-39 win. The Panthers improved to 7-5 overall and 4-3 in the Northern Buckeye Conference.
Filling in for Soler was varsity assistant coach Nick Porter, who had only learned of the change earlier in the day.
“It was a tough game to begin with because we beat them pretty easily the first time, so I thought this could be a trap game,” Porter said. “They do a really good job of taking you out of your comfort zone. They’re not pressuring as much as sitting back and letting you make your mistakes.
“In the second half, my biggest message was what it is every day – to win basketball games, we need to take care of the basketball and play good defense.”
The Panthers struggled in the first half, shooting 33 percent and committing 10 turnovers. They entered halftime tied 19-19.
Porter’s message at halftime was fairly simple.
“The big message was just, we have to play harder,” Porter said. “We are going through a lot of adversity. Our starting post, Anna Zheng, is out and Izzy Yancy, our backup post, was out of practice all week because she hurt her ankle in the last game. We had to find a way.
“This is a hardworking group of girls, but we have a very thin margin for error. I believe we can compete with anybody, but if we don’t come to play we can get blown out by anybody. We just have to execute.”
Maumee outscored Ross-ford 16-8 in the third quarter behind 12 points from Lucy Porter. The junior forward totaled 20 points, eight rebounds and five steals.
Taylor Smith added 12 points, three assists and three steals. Skyler Janes had eight points and six boards, and Yancy added four points, six rebounds and five assists.
“This nice thing about this year that hasn’t happened in years past is I don’t think we need to rely as heavily on Lucy,” Coach Porter said. “On any given night, anyone can step up and score. We have only eight girls on the team, but every one of those eight girls can play, and every one of those eight girls contributes. I have confidence in every one of those girls to step up and make a play.”
The Panthers shot 50 percent from the floor in the second half, including 2-of-5 from 3-point distance. Defensively, they came up with eight steals while committing just four turnovers.
Porter made sure to give credit to every player up and down his roster, but he didn’t stop there. One of last year’s team captains, Evelynn Schneider, has been helping the team in practice while she’s home on break from college, and Lucy’s dad, Mike, has been practicing with the team as well.
“The fact that we do only have eight girls, it’s tough and we’ve got to be creative with how we do practices,” Porter said. “Having Evelynn come back and my brother, Lucy’s father, come in to practice, and we’ve had some high school guys practice with us, that’s huge. Without that, we don’t get that five-on-five experience.
“We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in now without her and other people stepping up and helping us.”