Dragons share the ball, and a victory

Jensen Hiegel didn’t start Tuesday in Tiffin’s home opener against Mount Vernon Nazarene.

But the junior from Liberty-Benton made a big impact, scoring 12 points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out seven assists in the Dragons’ 83-69 win over the Cougars at the Gillmor Center.

Heigel played 25 minutes Tuesday, and was instrumental in handing Mount Vernon Nazarene its first loss of the season.

“That’s just what kind of player she is,” said Dragons coach Jessie Ivey, whose squad improved to 1-2. “She is absolutely a team-first mindset kid. She could care less if she scores zero points or 20. She just wants the team to win.”

The Dragons played a team-first game Tuesday, finishing with 24 assists, while the Cougars had 12. Savannah Richards had four for TU, while teammate Jada Tate had three. Of the 10 players the Dragons played Tuesday, eight had at least two assists.

“Our team’s been doing a really good job of sharing the basketball,” Ivey said. “They really are a team, and they’re just so much fun to coach.”

The Cougars led Tiffin 25-24 after one quarter, as Mount Vernon Nazarene shot 55.6% from the floor.

Ivey and her coaching staff made an adjustment at that point.

“We started going make-miss with the zone, and then we really locked down on the shooters, and then started forcing them over the top of the screen,” Ivey said. “But then, the kids just did an excellent job of talking it out, finding the shooters, and running them off the 3-point line.”

It worked. After scoring 25 points in the first quarter, the Cougars managed just 44 over the next three. Their shooting percentage after the first quarter dipped to below 33 percent.

Meanwhile, despite a cold fourth quarter in which the Dragons managed just 14 points, Tiffin remained consistent offensively for most of the contest.

Aarion Nichols led Tiffin in scoring with 16 points to go with nine rebounds and two steals, while Jasmine Watts scored 14 and added two blocks and seven boards. Brooke Wesner, who like Hiegel came off the bench, finished with 11 points.

“We kind of do our starting lineup based off of who performs the best in practice that week, so it’s constantly changing, and they know that, so it keeps our practices competitive,” Ivey said. “They did an excellent job; those two kids (Hiegel and Wesner) are juniors for us on the floor, so it really gave us some experience when they came in, and they were able to calm us down a little bit.”

Also for the Dragons, Kara Gealy added nine points, while Danelle Bradley had eight and Tate had seven.

Bellevue graduate Peyton Vogel came off the bench for the Dragons and added two rebounds.

“That’s the really nice thing about our team,” Ivey said. “We have so many weapons that no one can just deny one kid the ball or anything like that, so it really helps open up for everybody on the floor.”

Ivey said it was good to win the home opener, but also to get a victory over a tough opponent.

“Mount Vernon coming in here, they were 6-0, and a very, very good basketball team,” she said. “So for us to perform that well on our homecourt, and against that good of an opponent, it’s just really good for our young team to be able to grow off of that. I’m just really happy for them.”

Tiffin will be back on the court soon. Thursday, it hosts Wright State Lake at 5:30 p.m., in the first game of a doubleheader.

The TU men will play Wright State Lake afterward,

“We’re really big about, we’re gonna celebrate our victories; we have a 24-hour rule, and then we’ll be back at it again tomorrow, back to work,” Ivey said. “But obviously, the coaches, we’ll be up late trying to scout, make sure we’re prepared and ready when we have practice tomorrow.”