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Vista falls to Bella Vista at Toss-Up

By: Brett Ransford/Telegraph Correspondent
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Friday’s third and final game sent the Vista del Lago girls’ basketball team (2-10-0) away from the Oak Ridge Toss-Up Tournament winless in last place after a 43-28 loss to the Bella Vista Broncos. The Eagles’ seven-player roster progressively held opponents to fewer points over the three-game tournament, but averaged less than 30 points offensively and finished in eighth place losing to Kennedy, Christian Brothers and finally Bella Vista. Considering Kennedy is a Division I school and Bella Vista a Division II, Vista walked away from the tournament battle hardened and ready to begin league after the holiday break. Vista bounced back from a 12-2 first-quarter deficit and outscored Bella Vista in the second heading into halftime trailing 17-16. Second-chance points and unforced turnovers quickly snatched away their only lead of the game and doused plans for a comeback. Bella Vista led 25-22 after a back-and-forth third and Vista was held to six points in the final quarter, unable to generate points off turnovers or Bella Vista offensive fouls. Freshman standout Caprina Pipion again challenged the competition’s rebounding skills nearly outdoing Bella Vista’s entire squad. She finished with 16 rebounds, most of which were offensive, in addition to eight points. The freshman had double-digit rebounds before halftime. All-Tournament honors went to sophomore Hailey Coburn. According to her and coach Swan Wainwright, Coburn showed poise stepping into the starting point guard role. Coburn scored 14 points against Bella Vista, which is more than her previous nine points combined in the first two games. She scored half her points in the second quarter, including the team’s first three-pointer in seven attempts. Her third-quarter performance elevated Vista from a double-digit deficit to a third quarter lead. In the absence of starting point guard Ezenia Coleman, who missed the tournament away on vacation, Coburn said it wasn’t just her who contributed to an improved outing. “We did so much better. We had fewer turnovers and overall it was just a good team effort and we had fun playing,” said Coburn. “I could have taken more shots and the team could have stepped up a bit more, but the next whole week we’re going to have practices and work on all of those things we need to in order to start the season.” Wainwright acknowledges his team is young and developing this season, but looks forward to the next couple years where Pipion, Natalie Mills and Rachel Plag will no longer be underclassmen. Mills, the six-foot two-inch center, is a sophomore and was pulled up by Wainwright, who said he couldn’t let more than six feet play for JV instead of varsity. Pipion, likely a team leading scorer and double-double machine, is a freshman and future four-year varsity letter winner. Plag put in five points against Bella Vista and 10 in the tournament. She is also a sophomore. “Caprina is interchangeable at the one, two, three and four positions and I’m trying to get my post player Natalie Mills to be more assertive and more physical,” said Wainwright. Mills jumped from last year’s freshman team to this year’s varsity squad and immediately took on the center position. The Eagles have been to the section playoffs in each of the last three years, advancing into the second round once two seasons ago in Wainwright’s inaugural coaching season. In his third year Wainwright hopes to earn a top spot in league and advance to playoffs. He said playoffs are definitely a goal, but with such a young team he plans to see player development through the next few years at least. “This season is hopeful and we’ll try to take a lot of the early adversities we’re facing in stride,” said Wainwright. “We’re trying to use it as a positive to get ready to compete. The focus on this team this year is to have fun. If they’re not having fun, they’re not going to come out next year. I’ve got to keep coaching, keep developing, but I have to look down the road. We’ll take our wins where we can get them, build off of them and keep moving.”