UTICA — Needing just five points to crack the 1,000-point career barrier, it took Utica’s Tory Minton all of two shots Thursday.
Cracking the visiting Northridge Vikings was another story.
The Utica Redskins used that large emotional burst in the first few minutes to jump on Northridge early, but the pesky Vikings wouldn’t go away until the final horn sounded. In the end, the Redskins survived with a 37-31 victory in Licking County League girls basketball action.
“This was a great team victory,” said Utica coach Terry Logue. “We’re starting to jell as a team; starting to play as a team.”
Minton, a 5-foot-3 senior, needed just five points to reach the career milestone after lighting up Licking Heights for 39 on Monday. She wasted little time in breaking the barrier.
On the Redskins’ second possession, Minton received a nice inbounds pass from Sheila Sparks and stroked a 3-pointer. Needing just two points to break the mark, Minton delivered on the next possession, calmly knocking down another 3 as she brought the ball up court.
“It feels pretty good (breaking the mark),” said Minton. “But, I could not have done it without my teammates. ... I thought, if I’m open, take it. But, I wasn’t wanting to force anything.”
“I had a pretty good idea she’d get it quickly. She stepped up and hit some big threes,” said Logue. “That was nice to see her do that and get the milestone.”
After play was stopped to award Minton the game ball, the senior kept on attacking. She scored two more buckets in the first quarter as Utica (7-7 overall, 6-5 LCL) took control, 14-2.
But, the Vikings (6-8, 5-6) weren’t in the mood for a celebration, especially not one so early in the game.
Northridge clamped down defensively on the Redskins, holding them to just four points in the second quarter to help them get back into the game. That defensive pressure also sparked the Viking offense, which got three transition baskets in a row.
“They (Redskins) had an emotional rush with Tory hitting those early threes. But, we fought back. It’s a credit to the girls they didn’t panic,” said Northridge coach Joe Rucker.
The Vikings actually closed the gap to two points (21-19) midway through the third quarter, but Utica got two big buckets from Lauren Marolt to stop the bleeding. Minton was a key factor in those baskets, as well, as she started attacking the basket and was able to dish off to Marolt for the easy layups.
“I’ve realized my role is not always to shoot, but to get open looks for my teammates. I tried attacking the basket and get it to the open post,” Minton said.
Northridge tried to keep it close in the fourth, but Sheila Sparks and Marissa Smitherman both came up some huge baskets to keep the Vikings at bay.
“They (Vikings) really picked it up defensively. They are a good defensive team. They are very physical and we did not handle that very well tonight,” said Logue. “Marissa and Sheila hit some big shots that really picked us up tonight.”
Minton finished the night with 16 points, seven rebounds, five steals and three assists to lead the Redskins. Smitherman added eight points and five rebounds, while Rachel Londot had 14 rebounds, eight blocked shots and five points. Sparks and Marolt added four points each.
Northridge was led by Sara Pribonic, who had 11 points and three assists. Jenna Denune added six points, while Belinda Marcum pulled down 12 rebounds.
The Redskins made it a clean sweep on the night with a 43-27 victory in the junior varsity game.
Lindsay Burnett poured in 20 points to lead the Redskins, while Catherine Garven added 11.
Northridge was led by Hallie Martin, who scored 17.
Utica will return to action Saturday when they host Johnstown at 2:30 p.m.
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