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Falcons' Impressive Defense Leads To Victory Over Lycoming
Katelyn Vanderhoff (above) collected seven points and eight steals in the Falcons' win on Wednesday.

By Bryn Swartz, GoMessiah.com reporter
Grantham, PA - No matter who, when, or where they play, the Messiah Falcons just keep winning.

The latest stop on the win streak-- which is now at eight in a row -- was Lycoming College, where the Falcons took home a 51-34 victory. The win included, arguably, one of the best defensive stretches in program history: a 14-minute run where the Falcons held the Warriors scoreless.

"We were really good, especially defensively," said Messiah Falcons head coach Mike Miller. "We passed the ball well, made our shots, and played good defense. Taylor (Miller) was phenomenal in the first half with her shooting, and she helped get us going against their zone. (Lycoming) played zone all 40 minutes, and they did a pretty good job. They did outrebound us but we forced 30 turnovers and we made only thirteen (turnovers) ourselves."

The game was a defensive affair for all 40 minutes, though the beginning started with Messiah scoring just eight seconds into the game on a jumper from sophomore Taylor Miller. Messiah kept Lycoming off the scoreboard until the 14:56 mark in the first half, forcing five turnovers in that period.

Miller and classmate Chelsea Danel each hit threes in the next minute, giving Messiah a 9-3 lead, but Lycoming rallied to tie the game nine. Miller hit three more three-pointers over the next four minutes, as Messiah increased its lead to 23-13 with 7:46 remaining in the first half.

At that point, the Falcons embarked on what could go down as the single most impressive and dominant defensive stretch in the history of the program. For the last 7:46 of the first half, and the first 7:07 of the second half, the Falcons did not allow a single point. That's an unprecedented scoreless stretch of 14:53, unheard of even for a defense as dominant as Messiah's.

During the stretch, Messiah held Lycoming scoreless on all 26 possessions: eight missed shots and 18 turnovers. The Falcons had 10 steals during that stretch, six by junior Kate Vanderhoff.

On their offensive side of the ball during that time frame, Messiah's 22-0 run completely put the game away. Vanderhoff, Dori Gyori, Kira Maier, and Miller combined for all 22 points, and Messiah's 45-13 lead midway through the second half stands as the signature score of a game that ended up looking less lopsided than it really was.

Lycoming ended the game on a 12-0 run that cut Messiah's previous lead of 32 into a 17-point victory.

But this game was anything but a 17-point victory. This was as dominant as the Falcons have played this season. Coach Miller referred to the first half as a "top three, or four" half of the season.

"United was the word for the night," said Miller, whose team moves to 4-1 in the Commonwealth. "We were very united defensively. We took some chances on offense and defense, but everybody had each other's back tonight and it worked out. It was pretty impressive to only give up 13 points in the first half, and even more so that (Lycoming) didn't score in the first seven-plus minutes of the second half. That's a testament to our defense."

Taylor Miller led the team with 17 points in 22 minutes, including 14 in the first half on 5-7 shooting. Gyori scored 11 points in 22 minutes, and grabbed seven rebounds. Maier and Vanderhoff scored seven.

Vanderhoff also collected eight steals in just 23 minutes of play. Official single-game records are not kept in Messiah's basketball record book online, but Miller believes that Vanderhoff set the program's single-game record.

"In my 26 years of coaching, which is about 600 games, I can't ever think of a time when a player had this many steals in a game." he said. "They kept trying to get her player the ball to shoot and they couldn't because Kate kept stealing it away. She has a good understanding of space on the court."

The Falcons' dominant victory improved them to 13-3 on the season, setting them up for a match-up with Arcadia University (3-12, 0-5) on Saturday at 5:00 p.m. The game will be played in Messiah's Brubaker Auditorium.

Fans are reminded that Saturday is also Youth Night and Chick-Fil-A Night at Messiah. Chick-Fil-A will be on hand selling sandwiches, while all fans 16-under will receive a free Falcons' basketball poster.