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Chandler's 31 helps Vikings avenge early season loss
Pecatonicas Kimee Chandler shoots over Albanys Hayli Peach during the Vikings 64-60 win Tuesday night.
BLANCHARDVILLE - Pecatonica senior Kimee Chandler would probably like to be on the court in crunch time and not on the bench as a spectator.

Chandler didn't want a repeat of a game against Albany (9-6, 4-3 Six Rivers East) earlier this year when she fouled out late in the second half and the Comets beat the Vikings. In a rematch against Albany Tuesday night, Chandler stayed on the court and starred in the fourth quarter to lead the Vikings to a 64-60 win over the Comets.

Chandler, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, scored a game-high 31 points and had 12 rebounds.

"Tonight, to her credit as a senior, she was definitely going to keep them in the game," Albany coach Mike Brunhoefer said. "She was almost unstoppable. I'm not upset she is gone next year."

Chandler came up with a steal and drove in for a layup with 6 minutes, 57 seconds to go in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 48. That was just the start of the Vikings' 11-5 fourth-quarter run.

"I picked up three fouls in the first half and in the back of my mind I was thinking do not leave the court and play smart," Chandler said. "We switched to the zone and that helped. We all played really well. The team responded to that. The team really gelled."

It wasn't all Chandler. Pecatonica junior Alisha Esselstein, who scored 18 points, hit a jumper to give the Vikings a 50-48 lead.

Albany junior Hayli Peach, who scored a team-high 21 points, drilled a 3-pointer to give the Comets a 51-50 lead.

"We tried to encourage Kimee to take the ball to the basket and get in the paint," Pecatonica coach Tom Wilkins said. "She did that and put on a show tonight."

Albany junior Sydney Bump, who scored 18 points, made a basket down low and junior Hillary Best scored on a layup to slice the Vikings' lead to 57-56 with 3:09 left. Chandler scored on a layup and junior Ellie Gifford hit a clutch 3-pointer with 56 seconds to go to give the Vikings a 62-56 lead.

"That was a huge shot," Wilkins said. "The game was kind of herky-jerky. We really had to grind it out. It's a nice win for us."

Both teams got off to rocky shooting starts. The Vikings (6-8, 3-3) shot 5 of 18 in the first quarter and the Comets were 2-for-11. The Vikings went on an 11-4 spurt to start the second quarter. Esselstein scored on a layup and Chandler banked in a 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the period to give the Vikings a 23-15 lead. Peach scored on a putback and was fouled. She was injured for a moment on the play so Ingrid Kallgren came in and knocked down the free throw in her absence with 2:23 left in the second quarter to trim the Vikings' lead to 23-17. The Comets closed the second quarter with a 9-2 run and trailed 25-24 at halftime.

Esselstein scored 10 of her 18 points in the third quarter and made several clutch shots to go along with nine rebounds. However, one of the biggest plays was her steal late in the fourth quarter.

"Alisha had a great game," Wilkins said. "She made some beautiful shots in the second half. Her job was to guard their point guard. She did a good job until we got into foul trouble and went zone."

Brunhoefer was proud of his team's effort in the fourth quarter, but he knows they must gear up for the Six Rivers Conference Challenge game at Highland Friday.

"Naturally, they all had their heads down," Brunhoefer said of the Comets after the game. "I told them sometimes you have to give credit to the other team. I told them you were in the game. You have nothing to be ashamed about. To my kids' credit when we were down seven with under a minute left, the team did not quit."