SANDWICH — Jaylynn Vana's ambidextrous ability on the basketball court came almost by accident.
It's sure proven useful.
Vana, a Sandwich senior forward, was taught to do everything with her right hand by her parents when she was younger.
At some point in middle school, she started shooting with her left hand.
"Now I'm able to use both when I'm down low. It helps a lot," Vana said. "Everybody expects me to just be a lefty, so when I'm on the right side they expect me to shoot with my left. When I shoot with my right it throws them off."
Vana's had a big hand in the two best seasons in Sandwich basketball history, and a very good stretch run this year. She was stellar again Thursday, scoring a game-high 17 points in the Indians' 53-43 win over visiting Ottawa in the regular season finale.
Sandwich (20-11, 8-6 Interstate Eight Conference), which won for the seventh time in eight games, turned the tables on a January loss at Ottawa. It made for a sweet senior night for Vana and Ava Knepper, who checked out together with seconds left and then posed for a seemingly endless parade of pictures afterward.
"It felt really good – it was a revenge win," Vana said. "That's all we've been talking about all week."
Vana has had quite a week. On Wednesday she became what is believed to be the third girl in Sandwich history to score her 1,000th career point. She's had a sensational closing kick to get there, averaging 24 points in three wins last week with a career-high 30 against Indian Creek.
"It means a lot; I wasn't really expecting it," Vana said. "My mom asked me a couple weeks ago if I was close and my coach said 'Dont' worry about it, I got it handled.'"
Vana had it handled Thursday, as she shot 7-for-11 from the field with a series of moves around and on both sides of the basket. She scored seven points in the third quarter, her spin move extending a four-point halftime lead to 32-25.
"She's just been on fire lately," Sandwich coach Chris Johnson said. "When she makes her move and the spin moves, she's good with both hands, that's tough to guard someone like that."
Junior Josie Ness, who Johnson expects will hit 1,000 career points next year, added 13 points and eight rebounds and Knepper and Claire Roberts 10 points apiece for Sandwich, which shot a tick under 50% (22-for-45), and gave itself extra chances with 10 offensive rebounds.
Regan O'Fallon scored 12 points and Ella Marvel 11 points, with three of hot-shooting Ottawa's eight 3-pointers. But the Pirates (16-13, 7-7) allowed Sandwich to score nine points greater than its season average, a far cry from Ottawa's 44-34 win in January.
"We were a lot more engaged on the defensive side the last time," Ottawa coach Brent Moore said. "You're not going to win games on the road if you don't defend and rebound. Credit Sandwich, they were ready on their senior night."
Ness scored seven of her 13 points in the second quarter, her 3-pointer sending Sandwich into halftime ahead 27-23. The teams combined to hit six 3-pointers in the second quarter.
Sandwich led by as many as seven points in the third quarter, but Ottawa closed to 35-34 going to the fourth and trailed 41-40 with 5:45 after Marvel's third three. But Sandwich scored the next six points, and held Ottawa to one field goal the rest of the way.
"Fourth on our own in conference, top half, that's on the goal sheet," Johnson said. "For a while, I didn't know if we'd get there."
The 20 wins is the second-most in program history. Johnson admitted that it's a quiet 20 wins, almost anti-climactic after last year's 32-0 regular season – but he's not about to take it for granted.
"It's been so quiet, but I think it's great because we haven't had the pressure we had last year," Johnson said. "They've just poured it on lately. It's been a great year and it's the best time of the year to be playing well."
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