By ISAAC DEER
ROSSVILLE – If Class 3A's No. 2-ranked Silver Lake developed any cobwebs over the winter break, it wasn't noticeable Tuesday night as the Lady Eagles opened the new year with an emphatic 63-50 rivalry victory over its Highway 24 nemesis, Rossville.
The last time the Silver Lake Lady Eagles lost a regular season contest was January 22nd, 2022. With the same starting five that took this team to a state tournament last year, the Eagles have yet to look back and are moving forward at warp speed.
The 2023 opener had more meaning than most matchups.
Both Rossville and Silver Lake entered the War on 24 contest undefeated.
No. 9-ranked Rossville entered Tuesday night's Mid-East League matchup with a ton of momentum, winning its first five games before Silver Lake handed the Bulldawgs their first loss and outscored its first five opponents, 305-142.
The Lady Dawgs were looking to avenge their two losses against Silver Lake from last year but couldn't overcome the Eagles.
"I told the girls I was very proud of them," Rossville coach Michael Bell said. "I thought we accomplished a lot of stuff that we wanted to. I thought we were able to get the ball out and push. (Silver Lake) obviously has a great team, but we've got to play for four quarters. We had some mishaps."
A big reason why Rossville took a home loss was the standout 6-foot-1 junior McKenzie McDaniel's impact for Silver Lake. For the second game in a row, McDaniel had a double-double, recording 22 points and 14 rebounds.
"We started to settle down a bit and see the floor better and find her," Silver Lake coach Kyle Porter said. "That's something that's an important growth for us as a team is to know when she's open and make the decision, but not force it. There's times where we force and times where we don't see her. Playing the sweet spot and finding her when she's open is huge for us as a team.
"The strength for us is our balance. So we are still trying to figure out and work to play together every possession. Balance is huge for us, and moving forward, we have to be able to play inside and out. The key for us is for the inside game to open up the outside game. At times we fall prey to taking quick shots."
McDaniel has been a thorn in the sides of all of Silver Lake's opponents. Her presence commands an enormous amount of attention. The attention she gets opens up opportunities for everybody. With McDaniel's height and wingspan advantage, she easily draws fouls.
"McDaniel had 22 points, well you got to do a lot more work before she gets the ball," Bell said. "Once she gets the ball, it's pretty tough. (Silver Lake) went to the free throw line 24 times to our nine."
The rivalry stayed intact right from the opening tip.
Silver Lake aggressively fed the ball down to McDaniel in the paint, opening up opportunities for shooters to get looks outside the perimeter.
For Rossville, while they are undersized compared to its foe, its shooters were firing away from the 3-point line and finding open opportunities from the mid-range.
"Our game plan was to take advantage of our size inside and slow the game down a little bit and move the ball and really try to bury it in the halfcourt," Porter said. "For most of the game, we played more of their (Rossville) style just to get up and down."
In the opening quarter, McKinley Kruger went on a notable hot streak. M. Kruger went three for three from beyond the arc, including a 3-point shot near the area of the mid-court Bulldawg logo. McDaniel collected six points from the paint.
Rossville had a lead for the majority of the first quarter. Emma Mitchell led the Lady Bulldogs with seven points in the quarter. Kinley Porter and Kinsey Perine tallied up a combined four steals and were the catalysts for fastbreak opportunities. Porter and Perine combined for seven total steals for the game.
"I think it's very important; we are not the best of shooters by any means, so we need to get a lot of our offense from our defense," Bell said. "I thought we forced more turnovers today than we had the last couple of years against (Silver Lake)."
The defensive effort from the Lady Eagles was also stellar on Tuesday night. Silver Lake's 5-foot-6 freshman guard Kailyn Hanni stole the ball twice and had four blocked shots. M. Kruger, Kaibryn Kruger and Mariah Farmer combined for seven steals.
With consistent flow to both offenses and imposing efforts on defense, Silver Lake would hold just a three-point advantage going into the halftime break.
McDaniel would score 11 out of Silver Lake's 15 points in the third quarter. Clearly, the Lady Eagles wanted to force the battle in the paint and make Rossville defend its length inside the paint.
With Silver Lake moving the ball efficiently, Rossville had no choice but to play aggressively and foul Silver Lake toward the end of the contest. As a result, the Lady Eagles went to the charity stripe 13 times, converting eight of its free opportunities.
"I thought the second half, we played better," Porter said. "Being in these games and having the game dictate you having to take care of the ball and make good decisions will pay dividends down the road. We learned a lot as a team tonight."
Silver Lake had three different players with double-digit scoring. McDaniel led all scorers with 22, M. Kruger had 12 points, and Farmer had 10.
Rossville also had three players in double-digit scoring. Mitchell had 13, Rylee Dick with 12 and Perine contribute 10.
Silver Lake (5-0, 3-0) will hit the road for a league matchup against Rock Creek on Friday. Rossville (5-1, 0-1) will also travel on Friday for a league matchup against Riley County.
SILVER LAKE GIRLS 63, ROSSVILLE 50.
Silver Lake 16 16 15 16 – 63
Rossville 16 13 9 12 – 50
Silver Lake (5-0, 3-0) – Farmer 4 2-4 10, McDaniel 9 4-6 22, K. Kruger 3 0-0 7, M. Kruger 3 3-4 12, Ross 1 2-5 4, Hanni 0 5-8 5, Deiter 1 0-0 3. Totals – 21 16-24 63.
Rossville (5-1, 0-1) – Perine 5 0-1 10, Mitchell 5 3-4 13, Porter 3 0-0 6, Dick 4 3-4 12, Spielman 1 0-0 2, Haehn 3 0-0 7. Totals – 21 6-9 50.
3-point goals: Silver Lake 5 (M. Kruger 3, K. Kruger, Deiter), Rossville 2 (Dick, Haehn). Total fouls – Silver Lake 12, Rossville 19. Fouled out – none. Technical fouls – Rossville bench.