By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s Lady Warriors hung their hat on what they do best, and that’s play rock solid defense to secure a spot in the Central Illinois Conference Tournament Championship for the third straight year.
Coach Tim Kohlbecker’s crew rallied to beat a solid Sullivan squad for the second time this season limiting the Lady Redskins to single digit scoring in the final two frames advancing to the CIC title game with a 41-34 victory.
“Once again our defense kept us afloat while we tried to find an offensive rhythm,” state coach K. “They changed defenses consistently on made and missed baskets throughout the game.”
Grace Dietrich came out firing sinking two of her five threes in the contest in the first six minutes of the contest helping the Warriors to an early 8-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. She scored a career high 21 points on 5 of 10 from the field, all of which were outside the arc. She kept the ball rolling early in the second, and her backcourt mate Alexis Koester stepped outside for a trey as well. However, Sullivan stormed in front with four threes of their own in the stanza carrying a five-point lead into the break 19-14.
Dietrich hit two more treys in the third, and Brynn Tabeling found the Russo sisters, Cassie and Lexie, under the hoop to do some damage while banging the boards and fueling an eight-point run that put the Warriors in front for good.
“Grace kept our offense alive with her shooting,” commented the coach. “And Cassie and Lexie combined for 17 rebounds and 11 steals.”
Sullivan fouled early in an attempt to lengthen the game only to watch the Lady Warriors with a 9 for 12 effort at the line in the final five mintes of the game, including a perfect 6 for 6 from Dietrich.
“The girls are resilient and continue to handle adversity,” Coach K. said. “We are finding ways to win tough games. Alexis took over some ball handling duties late in the game and did an awesome job, and Marissa Russo and Ashton Smith gave us big minutes off the bench.”
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, Jan. 31 edition of The Tuscola Journal.