VICTORIA — To say the Victoria High School girls’ basketball team is full of youth might be a bit of an understatement.
But in her second year at the helm of the Knights’ program, former prep standout and current head coach Kristin Werth sees a lot of confidence in a team that starts two freshmen and features just a pair of seniors.
And if Friday night’s 53-31 victory against CPL foe Macksville is any indication, the Knights are starting to get better.
“Good to see them work as a team,” Werth said of her club, which picked up its fifth win of the season. “That was the biggest reason why we played so well tonight. They’re all looking out for each other and stuff just fell.”
It fell in a big way for one of those freshmen, Emily Sterling. The 5-foot-3 guard enjoyed a monster breakout performance with five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 21 points. It was just the third time this season she reached double figures.
“All thanks to my team,” the freshman said. “We were reversing the ball well tonight.”
Friday’s win and a 10-point win against state-ranked Otis-Bison were the two best games Werth has seen her team play, and were two showings that illustrate what her club is capable of. Sterling and 5-foot-8 freshman Lydia Sander see a ton of playing time on a team that typically only goes seven deep.
“They’re definitely stepping up into pretty big roles,” Werth said. “The more into the season they get, the more relaxed they get.
“They definitely are playing well for the position they’re having to be in.”
Friday night, Sterling seemed to be shooting with all the confidence in the world. She hit two first-quarter 3s as the Knights started to pull away early and led 16-7 after one quarter.
“At the beginning of the year, I was really nervous,” Sterling said. “Now, I’m really not nervous at all.”
Macksville narrowed the gap to 25-18 by halftime, but the third quarter belonged to the Knights. While Sterling buried three more 3s, the Mustangs couldn’t muster much offensively, due in part to the Knights’ fast-paced defense. Macksville scored just one point — coming late in the third quarter — while the Knights put up 19 and blew the game open.
With the roster arguably generous on height, the Knights don’t feature anyone taller than 5-8. It’s been tough defensively, but they showed up Friday.
“We’ve struggled just because we’re not a tall team,” Werth said. “And we’ve played some tall teams. When we get our defense going, though, like we did tonight, we can do a pretty good job.”
Plus it helps when they’re hitting 3s. In addition to Sterling, the Knights (5-11) hit three more in the rout, with two coming from sophomore Ryleigh Wagner, who finished with 10 points.
Friday’s win also was the second straight for the Knights, the first time they have done so under Werth, whose first year saw Victoria go 0-20 as the girls had just six come out.
“We’ve been kind of just taking it one game at a time,” Werth said. “Getting toward the end of the season, it’s important to just stay together as a team. It’s a long season.”
The Knights know they are probably a long way from going toe-to-toe with the likes of CPL and 2A juggernaut Claflin-Central Plains, but they also understand good things will come.
That was on display in a win and solid performance Friday against a Macksville team that is now 7-8.
“We’re going to do very good,” Sterling said. “We’re going to play as a team every single game, and we can do some great things.”
Macksville boys 59, Victoria 30
As has been the case all season in a loaded Central Prairie League, points were hard to come by Friday for the Victoria boys. The Knights fell behind 16-4 after the first quarter, and were down 32-14 by halftime as the visiting Mustangs rolled to the victory.
Macksville (11-4) got on a roll early with senior Jacob Rein scoring seven of his game-high 19 points in the first quarter. He had 17 by halftime, outscoring the Knights by himself. Junior Kody Mead added 14, and junior Kaleb Lickiss 15 for the game, which was played under a running fourth-quarter clock through most of the fourth quarter as Macksville extended the lead to 30.
Junior Cooper Windholz led Victoria (4-12) with seven points.