WELLINGTON — Rule No. 1 when facing Loudonville’s girls basketball team: Don’t make Alexis Van Horn mad.
Frustrated by an atrocious first half Wednesday, the shooting guard went absolutely bonkers in the second to lead the Redbirds to a 60-30 win over Black River in a Wellington Division III Sectional semifinal.
Van Horn missed all nine shot attempts in the first half, when Loudonville (14-7) trailed the Pirates (11-10) 18-15 at halftime. She responded with 25 points over the final 16 minutes, including a personal 13-0 spurt that completely deflated Black River.
Ignited by Van Horn’s performance — she made 9-of-10 field goals and 4-of-4 free throws — Loudonville, which advances to play Northwestern Saturday afternoon, outscored the Pirates 45-12 in the second half.
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Van Horn said. “I just knew I had to come out and make shots to be able to win this game. When I kept missing those shots, I just wanted to come back and make them. I knew they’d fall after a while.”
Van Horn came out of the locker room with guns blazing, canning her first bucket of the game and following with four three throws to give the Redbirds their first lead.
She followed with two more scores and a 3-pointer, giving her 13 points in the first 2:33 of the half.
By that point, Loudonville was up 10.
Black River’s Jessica Chidsey (12 points, 3 assists) finally stopped the bleeding with a free throw and Jasmine Kellom (5, 6 rebounds) followed with a freebie to get within 28-22, but the Redbirds responded with a jaw-dropping 25-4 run that cleared the benches midway through the fourth quarter.
“Van Horn was totally on fire,” Pirates coach Ken Deidrick said. “She just came out and blew it wide open.
“We were hoping they would run out of gas, but when the ball starts falling through the hoop like that, I guess it energizes everybody.”
Black River, which shot 4-of-26 in the second half, couldn’t have played better defensively in the first. The Redbirds missed their first 11 shots, including six by Van Horn, and didn’t score until Andi Van Sickle somehow rolled in a tough 8-footer in front of Pirates center Danielle West (9 points, 5 rebounds) with 2:07 left in the first quarter.
Loudonville finished the half just 4-of-29 from the floor, but Black River couldn’t hang on to the ball long enough to get enough scoring opportunities. The result was just a five-point lead until Van Horn got on the board with a pair of free throws just before recess.
The rest, as they say, was history.
“Our defense was awesome,” Deidrick said. “We could have made a few less turnovers, but I’m not disappointed in the kids. They played hard from start to finish.
“Our first half was better than our second half — mostly because Van Horn had a really nice game.”
Despite the very disappointing finish, Deidrick looked back on the season with pride. The Pirates secured their first winning season since 1990-91 and it took a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Van Horn to snap Black River’s seven-game win streak, which was its longest in 26 years.
Even better, returning starters Chidsey, Taylor Goff and Kayla Finkel will bring a combined eight years of experience to the court next winter.
“That was a big step for us because we haven’t been able to get through that,” Deidrick said. “That’s what I told them here in our last meeting as a team. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“We’ve had a great season and did something that hadn’t been done for awhile. They needed to have their heads up and be proud of that.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.