By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s girls’ basketball team won the Central Illinois Conference Tournament for the first time in the short history of the league last season and they started their defense of the title Saturday, Jan. 20 with a dominating 48-13 win over Shelbyville. Coach Tim Kohlbecker’s squad entered the tourney as the top seed and held court against the Lady Rams thanks to a stingy defense that limited their opponents to just five points in the first quarter and 13 total in the contest.
The seventh ranked team in the Champaign-Urbana News Gazette area list jumped out to a 14-5 advantage after one thanks to a big first frame by Grace Dietrich and Lexie Russo. Dietrich hit one of her three treys early, and Russo attacked the paint for two buckets. The duo combined for 22 points in the game with Dietrich adding 13 points to her stat sheet and Russo nine points.
Tuscola tightened the noose on defense even more in the next two frames limiting their first round opponent to just two points in each of the next two frames all but ending the hopes of a comeback by the Rams who trailed by 32 points 41-9 entering the final eight minutes of the contest. Kohlbecker utilized his bench early but truly turned it over to his subs in the final stanza as the Warriors built depth and advanced to the semi-finals with the victory.
“We went into the contest in hopes of fine tuning our offense with Brynn (Tabeling) running the offense from the point guard position,” stated coach K. “Tabeling took over the reins of the offense last Tuesday and gets more comfortable each and every time out.”
Cassie Russo put her stamp on the stat sheet in nearly every category, The senior post delivered five assists, five steals, five points, and five rebounds. Tabeling and Alexis Koester both checked in with six points apiece while Ashton Smith donated five points. Freshman Hope Dietrich was elevated to the varsity squad on Saturday and scored the first two points of her young career late in the contest.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, Jan. 24 edition of The Tuscola Journal.