Talk about being dumped right into conference play.
When Marine City got to Marysville’s gym, it was officially the start of the Macomb Area Conference Gold girls basketball season. For two teams that have a realistic shot to win the conference title, it was an early gut-check time for both teams.
Thanks to a big second quarter and sharp free throw shooting to end the game, the Lady Vikings prevailed on their home floor with a 53-42 win.
Senior center Payton Husson was a force inside for the Vikings, cashing in 18 points on the night to go with her established defensive presence. Senior forward Devan Valko also had 14 points, and senior guard Shannon Curley had 10 points that included two crucial 3-pointers.
Kiara Kelley also added seven points, but she also contained Marine City’s Karyssa Austin, who is one of the most dangerous shooting threats in the area.
“I thought she did a good job, she was tasked with Austin who is really, really good,” Marysville head coach Ryan Rathje said. “She took I think four charges tonight too.”
The scoring leader for the night was wearing black and orange as sophomore forward Stephanie Abraham gave the Lady Mariners 20 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter.
“She did a good job getting to the basket, I think she only had one jump shot,” Marine City head coach Jeff Austin said.
Husson wasted no time showing the fans who packed the bleachers she was going to run the show. In the first quarter, the SUNY Binghamton commit scored three points and caught two Mariners shots. Not blocked — caught.
Marine City’s Paige Tranchida also got off to a hot start, scoring four points and blocking a shot to help Marine City tie the game late in the quarter at 9-9.
Unfortunately for the Mariners, Husson and the Vikings were only getting warmed up.
Husson went on to score 10 points in the second quarter, and Hannah Delor also made a layup while being fouled to round out the offensive highlights. On defense the Vikings were even more tenacious, allowing just two points the entire quarter off a layup by Stephanie Abraham.
“Devan and Shannon are really strong at outside shooting and they can get hot so (Marine City) were worried about them, so that gave me one-on-one the entire second quarter,” Husson said. “My gameplan was to take advantage of that the most I could because I knew they would double me eventually.”
The combination of tough defense and smart offense sent the Vikings into halftime with a 24-11 lead.
The Mariners used the third quarter to claw back into the game, doing so by getting the Vikings’ lead down to 31-25 near the end of the quarter. However, that lead was bumped to 34-25 when Curley swished home her first big 3-ball of the night toward the end of the quarter.
Marine City took another charge at the lead, cutting it down to 36-30 to begin the fourth quarter. Once again, Curley sent the Vikings fans into a frenzy with a nothing-but-net 3-pointer from downtown to make it 39-30.
The Lady Mariners simply wouldn’t go away in the fourth quarter, hitting late shots to stay within shooting range of the lead. What didn’t help their cause was the Vikings’ efficiency on the free throw line as Valko, Curley and Kiara Kelley combined to shoot 9-for-10 in the final 1:30.
“Devan at the free throw line is like the sun coming up — you know it’s going to happen,” Rathje said.
Marine City will get a nice break between games and will next play on Jan. 14 when it hosts Roseville. Marysville’s turnaround will be quicker as it hits the road on Tuesday to face Center Line – the team it tied with for the conference title last season.