HOLT – Imania Baker didn’t set the bar too high for herself coming into her first year of varsity basketball.
The Haslett freshman wasn’t expecting to be well received by her veteran peers. She didn’t expect to start. And after tearing her ACL during her eighth-grade year, she wasn’t sure how she would hold up.
Baker is now deep into her inaugural season, and she’s been a key reason the Vikings seem to be peaking at the right time.
The freshman forward scored a game-high 21 points Tuesday night as Haslett pulled away from Holt in the second half to grab a 68-38 nonconference road victory.
“I worked my way up to where I am now,” said Baker, who is averaging a team-high 10 points per game. “Usually, a lot of varsity teams don’t like freshmen. It means a lot to me that they’re letting me play my game and contribute.
“I was kind of scared (tearing my ACL). I have to admit, I was really scared. I thought I was going to tear it again. But I had my teammates and coaches telling me that I’m going to do great. And right when I got back, I started, too.”
TUESDAY HIGH SCHOOL HOOPS COVERAGE
Baker helped the Vikings (10-6) grab their fourth consecutive win. It’s the team’s longest winning streak of the season, and first-year coach Ross Baker said he’s noticed his ball club make gradual strides throughout the year.
“We talked earlier in the year (about) how we hadn’t won more than two in a row, that we wanted to get on a run,” he said. “You can’t get on a run unless you’re playing really well.
“We’re young. We got three freshmen and two sophomores, so we knew that it would be a process. We’re starting to fine-tune some things offensively. Defensively, we’re still hot and cold, as far as our effort. If we can fix that, the way we’re sharing the ball … I like the way we’re playing right now.”
Baker scored 10 of her 21 points in the second quarter, leading the way with the team’s first 10 points during that period. However, the Rams (4-10) had a counter for each punch Haslett through in the first 16 minutes and were able to end the half on an 11-4 run to trail by just one point going into the locker room.
It was the play of junior Alliyiah Demmers, who scored eight points, on both sides of the floor that helped the Rams stay withing striking distance. The shooting of junior Kaylie Townsend, who finished with seven points, and the interior defense of sophomore Shamayah Scates ignited the run going into the half.
But Holt was unable to build off its momentum and connected on just five field goals in the final two quarters.
“This year, it’s been kind of difficult getting everyone together and getting on the same page from the start,” said Demmers, whose team graduated seven seniors last year. “This was a really good game to come together and show us our potential so that we can keep working toward that.
“For a while, I think our excuse was that we’re inexperienced. But being this deep into the season, that can’t be our excuse anymore.”
The Vikings were able to pull away thanks to a strong second half from senior Annisa Whims, who scored nine of her 12 points in the final 16 minutes. Senior Sydnee Dennis added 11 points, and sophomore Hannah Homan scored all eight of her points in the fourth quarter.
“Imania had a huge first half that kept us in it when we weren’t playing real well, and then Holt adjusted like we knew they would,” Ross Baker said. “We got Annisa going on the outside when they started taking away our inside looks, and that was big. We want to play inside-out.”
Holt’s Imani Malone added six points.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.