Her offensive show put an exclamation point at the end of a very big night for the Sailors.
LaForce’s second-half outburst propelled Vermilion (8-4) to a 56-49 non-conference victory over previously undefeated Clearview (8-1).
And her final free throw gave her a game-high 27 points and an even 1,000 for her career, 135 short of the school record. When it was over, Clearview coach Nick DiMacchia gave LaForce the game ball.
“I wasn’t even thinking about my 1,000 points,” LaForce said. “I had no idea I was very close. I got the same shots in the second half that I had in the first half, but they just started falling. My teammates got the ball to me, they set awesome screens — Ellen Rossi and Leigh Stainbrook set the best screens they set all year.”
That was a lot different than the first 16 minutes.
“I came out in the first half and my shots weren’t falling,” LaForce said. “But I knew I just had to keep shooting, because that’s what shooters do. You just keep shooting and they eventually fall. When we came out in the second half, I knew it was time to get my teammates involved and take over.
“We needed to control the tempo more and I felt that really helped us in the second half.”
It was also a game of productive halves for junior Hannah Bartlome, who kept the Sailors in it with a 15-point first half, including three of the team’s five total 3-pointers. In fact, without Bartlome’s production, Vermilion could well have trailed 18-3 at the break, because she scored the Sailors’ first 15 points. She finished with 17.
The score was 18-18 at the half and the game remained close the rest of the way. Clearview led 40-39 after three quarters.
With a huge second half from senior scoring leader Desiree Ray, the Clippers held a 49-47 lead after MacKenzie Mielcarek drilled a 3-pointer with about four minutes to go.
But Mielcarek’s three was Clearview’s final points. LaForce made five of six foul shots in the last 27 seconds to create the final score. Ray, held to four points the first half, finished with a team-high 18. Fellow senior Sydney Wright scored 12 and senior guard Katlynne Baker nailed three of the team’s 3-point baskets for nine points.
“This was a very nice win,” Sailors coach Colin Irish said. “I’m very proud and happy for the girls. They worked very hard and stayed with what we had to run. The first half was a little rusty, but we haven’t been in school and practicing, but we sucked it up in the second half and played really well.”
It was a physical game, and several players on both teams left the gym with bumps and scratches. That included LaForce, who received a scratch on her left cheek in a battle for possession.
It also saw the Clippers’ DiMacchia whistled for a technical foul three minutes into the fourth quarter. Some in the crowd thought the call was gratuitous because DiMacchia was in the coach’s rectangle in front of the bench with his back to the officials when it was made.
“I thought our kids played well enough to win,” DiMacchia said. “Not to take anything away from Vermilion because Vermilion played very hard as well, but it’s hard to overcome a guy with a whistle. But I’m very proud of my kids. They did an excellent job and as I said, I thought they played well enough to win.
“You know what. We still have a lot of season to play. We just have to keep our focus and remember our record is a clean slate and get ready for the next game.”
Vermilion 56, Clearview 49
VERMILION (56): AuBree LaForce5-15-27, Hannah Bartlome 7-0-17, Jasmine Porter 0-0-0, Ellen Rossi 4-0-8, Allie Kowal 1-0-2, Leigh Stainbrook 0-2-2, Sarah Bartlome 0-0-0, Abbey Bodecker 0-0-0. Totals 17-17-56.
CLEARVIEW (49): Hayleigh Mendez 0-0-0, MacKenzie Mielcarek 1-1-4, Katlynne Baker 3-0-9, Sydney Wright 5-2-12, Desiree Ray 8-2-18, Tahjanae Flowers-Coleman 0-0-0, Raquel Santana 0-0-0, Angel Blakely 3-0-6. Totals 20-5-49.
Vermilion 4 14 21 17 — 56
Clearview 7 11 22 9 — 49
3-point goals: Vermilion 5-15 (Bartlome 3, LaForce2); Clearview 4-15 (Baker 3, Mielcarek). Field goals: Vermilion 17-63 (27 percent); Clearview 20-62 (32.3 percent). Free throws: Vermilion 17-20; Clearview 5-7. Rebounds: Vermilion 44; Clearview 40. Turnovers: Vermilion 15; Clearview 16. Fouled out: Mielcarek. Technical foul: Clearview coach DiMacchia.
Junior varsity: Vermilion, 28-26.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7135 or email@example.com.