Skees’s sickness no problem for Our Redeemer’s girls

Jenny Skees was anything but comfortable entering the Our Redeemer’s Christian School home locker room on Thursday.

While her teammates made preparations for the second half, the junior guard excused herself into the bathroom and threw up.

There was little queasiness associated with her third and fourth quarters execution-wise. Skees scored 10 of her 13 points after intermission as the Knights nearly gave up a 20-point fourth-quarter lead but bested Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood 57-50.

“Definitely off of adrenaline,” Skees said of her ability to get through the game while battling a week-long flu, “and emotions, I guess.”

The Knights’ defensive philosophy isn’t one suited for a player out of peak physical shape. It’s a full-court defense based on pressuring the basketball and forcing turnovers.

ORCS’s offensive attack requires just as much hustle, as transition layups are the expectation after forced turnovers. All of this left Skees, who had missed a few practices recuperating, a shell of herself afterward.

“(I’m) more tired,” Skees said. “Way more tired and exhausted.”

The Knights (6-3) were already battling a smaller-than-normal bench. Junior forward McKinzie Fettig was absent with illness and sophomore post McKensie Popinga exhausted four of her six allotted quarters in the junior varsity contest.

But senior Emily VanLith wasn’t missing anything, specifically in the first half. She scored 16 of her team-high 18 points in the first 14 minutes of play before sitting out the last two minutes after committing her third foul.

VanLith got her buckets almost exclusively on layups. In fact, the only time she let loose from outside of the lane was on a pair of foul shots in the first quarter. Other than that, she operated about three feet from the basket, especially in transition.

“That’s definitely a higher-percentage shot,” VanLith said. “I figured, if you can get those, you might as well shoot them.”

VanLith fouled out with seven minutes, 22 seconds left in the game. From there, the Knights’ offense fizzled and the Mavericks capitalized in the short term.

Barely more than two minutes later, ORCS’s lead had been cut from 20 to 54-44, prompting Knights coach Kory Nelson to ask for time.

“We panicked for a little bit,” Nelson said. “At one timeout we kinda got them settled down and helped them realize even if the 35-second clock goes off, it’s not a big deal.”

ORCS continued to struggle scoring-wise out of the break (two Skees baskets were the only field goals the Knights mustered in the quarter), but the defensive effort at least limited some of M-L-S’s chances. The Mavericks (3-4) got within 55-50 but didn’t score in the final 1:46.

Morgan Olson scored 15 for the Knights, who travel to Bishop Ryan on Tuesday.

The Mavericks were paced by Sierra Smith’s 18 points. They’ll host Surrey on Tuesday.