DIXON – For 10 minutes of Tuesday’s game against Highland, it was as if the Sauk Valley women’s basketball team was out wandering in a desert.
That dry spell doomed the Skyhawks in a 63-54 loss to the Cougars in the SVCC gym.
Sauk Valley led 17-8 after a basket from Lydia Box with 10 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the first half, and was still up 18-14 when Box hit the second of two free throws at the 8:58 mark. That was it, however, for the Skyhawks’ first-half scoring.
Highland went on a 25-1 run to go up 33-18 at the break.
“It was a tale of two teams,” Sauk coach Jed Johnson said. “We started out well, executing, finding open players for layups. Then all of a sudden, they just shut off.”
Sauk Valley was 8-for-33 from the field in the first half, and converted just two of eight free-throw attempts.
“We held Sauk to 18 points in the first half, and you just don’t do that with Lydia Box,” Highland coach Dean Buckwalter said. “She can do that by herself.”
The Skyhawks (11-9, 2-4 Arrowhead Conference) heated up in the second half, getting within five points on five occasions, the final time at 45-40 with 7:45 to play after a Brianna Richardson basket.
The Cougars (9-10, 2-3) went back up 10 with 3:50 remaining, but Sauk made one more push. Holly Nicklaus, who missed her first seven 3-point attempts, found the range on back-to-back 3s, the second pulling the Skyhawks within 56-50 with 2:14 to play.
It was all Highland the rest of the way, however, and a Nicklaus 3 in the closing seconds kept the margin in single digits.
The main thorn in the side of the Skyhawks was Highland’s Marisha Moore, a freshman out of Rockford Jefferson. She dropped in 25 points, 20 above her average, and hit six of seven 3-point attempts. Her lone miss was a hurried shot just before halftime.
“I just warmed up pretty well, and I was feeling it the whole time,” Moore said.
Moore has played limited minutes this season because of a pinched nerve in her back she has been battling for about 6 weeks. It was hard to tell she was hobbled on this night, however.
“She can shoot, but she really hasn’t had the chance,” Buckwalter said. “Tonight, she was just feeling it.”
Katie Clark, a burly 6-foot-1 post player, ruled the paint for Highland with 16 points and 15 rebounds, while point guard Iesha Barkley added 15 points.
Box, Sheldeen Joseph and Nicklaus each scored 12 points to lead Sauk Valley. Joseph also grabbed 12 boards, while Nicklaus added five steals.
Star of the game: Marisha Moore, Highland, 25 points, 5 rebounds
Key performers: Lydia Box, Sheldeen Joseph, Holly Nicklaus, Sauk Valley, 12 points each; Katie Clark, Highland, 16 points, 15 rebounds
Up next: Sauk Valley at Black Hawk East, 5:30 Saturday