LIMA – Sometimes it just comes down to intensity.
In Monday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference girls basketball game against Toledo Whitmer, Lima Senior might have waited a little too long before it turned up the dial.
After falling behind 37-23 by the halftime break, the Spartans came out renewed in the second half and outscored the visiting Panthers 35-22. However, Lima Senior fell just short of a stellar comeback as Whitmer escaped with a hard-fought 59-58 victory.
Lima Senior’s Stacia Allen (10 points) got an open look from deep in the right corner with time running out, but could not connect on the 3-point attempt.
Samantha Meinen and Keshyra McCarver each scored 20 points to lead Whitmer (14-6, 7-5 TRAC). McCarver scored 17 of those points in the first half. Meinen was a force on the boards, coming away with a game-high 14 rebounds.
Indiya Benjamin, who scored just four points in the first half for the Spartans, came out in the second half and dropped 16 points to end the game with 20. Caterrion Thompson scored 11 points, including two 3-pointers for Lima Senior (11-7, 7-5).
“We didn’t do anything different in the second half than what I wanted us to do in the first half,” Lima Senior coach Vince Halliday said. “Our energy level, our intensity and our commitment to defend was there in the last 16 minutes. It just wasn’t there the first 16 minutes of the game.
“Going into the game, we’re talking about shutting down No. 42, McCarver. She had a career-high against us last time. And she had 17 points in the first half (on Monday). Our energy level wasn’t where it needed to be. We then held her to three points in the second half. …We really defended well in the second half.”
Whitmer got out quickly, jumping out to a 15-8 lead with three minutes left to play in the first quarter. McCarver had her way inside the paint, scoring eight points down low. Whitmer led 20-16 by the first stop.
Whitmer extended its lead in the second quarter as McCarver continued her assault. She hit two shots inside the paint and also connected once behind the arc.
Whitmer shot a sizzling 60 percent from the field in the first half, while Lima Senior 33 percent.
In the third quarter, however, Lima Senior got it going.
The Spartans opened the second half with a 9-1 run to cut the deficit to 38-32. The Spartans went on to outscore Whitmer 14-9 in the quarter. Whitmer’s lead was 46-37 by the end of the third stanza. Benjamin sliced into the lane often, scoring four times off the dribble. Lima Senior’s defensive pressure also helped cause seven Whitmer turnovers.
In the fourth quarter, the Spartans didn’t let up.
With 1:38 remaining in the game, the Spartans cut the deficit to 59-56, on an inside move by Allen. Then 38 seconds later, Benjamin drove the lane for a scooping layup to make it 59-58.
After an unsuccessful trip down the floor and a couple time outs later, Lima Senior got the ball down into the right corner, where an open Allen took the shot from 18 feet away. Allen’s shot fell short and Whitmer survived Lima Senior’s comeback.
“You’re not going to shut her down,” Whitmer coach Sean Flemmings said about Benjamin. “They have two great players, along with a lot of good complimentary players. We knew they were going to make a run. But, we kept battling.”
For the game, Whitmer shot 55 percent from the floor, while Lima Senior connected on 41-percent of its shots.
“We just dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” Halliday said. “We had a situation at the end where our best shooter has a wide open shot. …You can’t ask for anything more. I’ll take that all day. But, I was disappointed of the effort in the first half.”