FALL RIVER — It was as if the basket was greased.
But it wasn’t all just bad luck for Rio’s prep girls basketball team in the second half Tuesday night — Fall River’s defense had something to do with it.
The Pirates harassing pressure — and an unfriendly rim — held the Vikings without a field goal for almost 13 minutes after the break and Fall River blew open a three-point halftime lead en route to a 54-43 Trailways West Conference victory, giving the defending league champions a key win as they jockey toward another crown.
“We’ve been hanging our hat on our defense. The Hutzler girls (Jordyn and Adeline) are really talented, so we tried to concentrate on that and to shut those kids down,” Fall River coach Jim Doolittle said. “I thought my kids did a really nice job with that.
“We started doubling the post — and I think that was the difference in the game.”
Fall River led 31-28 after the first 18 minutes, but opened the second half on an 18-1 run, which was capped by a 3-pointer by Rebecca Tramburg with 6 minutes, 20 seconds to go that gave the Pirates a 49-29 lead.
Rio (10-2, 4-2 Trailways West) didn’t get any breaks during that run, though, as several shots rattled out.
“Fatigue definitely played a factor with that and it does get frustrating, because it’s like, ‘Come on, come on — we’re close; we’re there,’” Rio coach Deb Hutzler said. “And then it’s just rimming out. So it is a little deflating at times.”
The Vikings, whose first six points of the second half were all from the free throw line, finally got its first field goal after the break on Jordyn Hutzler’s three-point play that cut their deficit to 49-37 with 4:50 to go. The senior guard scored a game-high 20 points before fouling out.
That would be as close as they would get until a basket by Jada Graham with 14 seconds left provided for the final margin.
Meanwhile, Fall River (10-2, 5-1) — the fourth-ranked team in Division 5 according to the Associated Press — didn’t suffer the same fate, with Sam Leisemann scoring seven of her team-best 16 points after halftime and Lexi Rozinski putting in six of her 14 points after the break to lead the way.
The Pirates simply couldn’t keep up.
“We need to find a little bit more consistent energy from (some) of our kids; we’d go three or four possessions with our hands in the passing lanes and giving help, and then one possession we would back off and they would take advantage,” Deb Hutzler said. “And Fall River is too good of a team to leave unguarded — simple as that.”
Still, Deb Hutzler was more than impressed with the effort from Jordyn, her daughter.
“Jordyn had to play (almost) every second of that game — I think she had a 30-second break — and still played (great) defense and she still gave 110 percent effort on that floor, every single possession,” the elder Hutzler said. “So I give kudos to her, because I’m not sure any other girl in the conference can give that kind of energy.”
It was a valiant effort by Jordyn Hutzler, but it came in vain as Fall River got an important win to keep pace with Markesan, which defeated Randolph — ranked eighth in D5 — by the score of 39-32 in overtime.
“I’m very pleased with the win, but we’ve got some work to do,” Doolittle said. “We’ll have to see what happened with Markesan and Randolph tonight — Markesan is the team everybody is chasing now.”
FALL RIVER 54, RIO 43</&hspag3>
Rio 28 15 — 43
Fall River 31 23 — 54
RIO (43) — (fgm ftm-fta pts) Canales 1 4-4 7, J. Hutzler 6 9-15 20, Sampson 1 0-0 2, Graham 1 0-0 2, Hagenow 2 0-0 4, A. Hutzler 0 2-4 2, Quist 3 0-0 6. Totals 13 15-23 43.
FALL RIVER (54) — (fgm ftm-fta pts) Schwartz 1 0-0 2, H. Gregorio 3 0-0 6, Van Gysel 1 0-1 2, M. Gregorio 2 4-5 8, Rozinski 5 4-5 14, Tramburg 1 3-4 6, Leisemann 6 4-7 16. Totals 19 15-22 54.
3-pointers — Rio 2 (Canales 1, J. Hutzler 1), FR 1 (Tramburg 1). Total fouls — Rio 21, FR 21. Fouled out: Rio — J. Hutzler. FR — None.