EFFINGHAM — The Atchison County Tigers girls basketball team netted a triumphant home opener on Tuesday night in Effingham, overcoming adversity late to secure the first win of the season, 54-45.
The Tigers led for the entire game, although at various margins, cutting their teeth in a way that will surely make memories for this young squad against an Eastern Kansas League rival.
Atchison County established command of the game right at the half with newcomer Jordan Caplinger stealing and hustling down the court to complete a fast-break layup right before the buzzer sounded. She ultimately scored 8 points for the Tigers, showing up big for her team in the second and fourth quarters.
Lone junior Meagan Pitts led the Tigers in scoring with 13 total points, earning praise from Head Coach Mike Eckert for scrappy, aggressive play inside which produced multiple takeaways for the home team. Her strong play in the fourth proved essential as the Tigers allowed their advantage to winnow to just one point with 5 minutes of basketball left in regulation. The Tigers went on a run at exactly the right time fueled in part by an arcing three-point shot from the outside righthand arc.
“Yeah, Meagan just had a phenomenal game,” Eckert said. “Between her rebounding, picking up trash points, she never stopped battling. She had a big three when we needed it. She just had a hell of a game.”
Ball control and fouls, which proved to be fatal late in the game for a promising effort on Saturday in Hiawatha for the Tigers, also hampered the Tigers in this game. Eckert said he expects the starting five, most of whom are freshmen, to improve their confidence and cohesion with time.
“Oh, there’s tons of stuff we gotta do better,” Eckert said. “We gotta try to not beat the press with the dribble, we have to use the pass, to reverse the ball, get around the defense. I think we can do a lot better job of that.”
Amid that freshmen effort, Addison Schletzbaum and Natalie Nitz together each earned an equal share of 24 points for the Tigers, with Schletzbaum in particular establishing the team’s dominance in the third quarter by seizing three consecutive takeaways from the Rams and scoring on two of them, contributing to a seven-point run that left ACCHS in command at 35-27.
“It’s really exciting to come back and get our first win in basketball, the win we’ve all been looking forward to, what we’ve been playing together for so long to have,” Schletzbaum said. “We know this is just one win, and we’ve got some tough teams to play, but I think that we’re going to be able to compete with them no matter what.”
Atchison County, 1-2, will remain at home later this week, after this third game and victorious home opener to host the Jackson Heights Cobras. Events are scheduled for 5 p.m. to 10 p.m; the girls varsity squad should begin play at around 6:15 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13.