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Marissa Russo’s leads Lady Warriors in her coming-of-age season

By Lenny Sementi 
Coach Tim Kohlbecker is leaning on junior Marissa Russo’s consistent scoring inside to fuel the offense for Tuscola girl’s basketball team. The junior has reached the double-digit plateau in all four games this season including a 43-28 non-conference rout of Cerro Gordo this past Monday, November 25. Russo was good on seven of sixteen from the field and three of five from the charity stripe accounting for fifteen points. She also recorded her third double-double of the year hauling in a game-high twelve rebounds.

She was five points better a few nights later on Thursday but the extra offense didn’t result in a win as the Warriors fell to a tough Villa Grove team 49-43. Tuscola fell to 2-2 in the early season despite a career-best twenty points and fourteen rebounds from Russo. Classmate Brynn Tabeling found the post three times in the lane early in the game while also adding ten points to her own season totals reaching double digits for the second time during Thanksgiving week.

Coach K’s crew struggled in both contests outside the arc going a combined 0 for 24 on three point shots but it was the inside game and an intense defensive effort that secured the win over the Lady Bronco’s. Tabeling found Russo twice in the paint in the opening frame and scored a runner herself giving the Warriors a 9-6 advantage after one period of play.

Russo banged her way to two more buckets early in the second and Tabeling drove the lane for a bucket and fed Hope Dietrich down low for another giving Tuscola a double digit lead with just over three minutes left in the half. That’s where it would stay thanks to late second quarter free throws by Hannah Hornaday and Sophie Kremitzki handing Kohlbecker a twelve-point lead to work with at the break up 25-13.  Dietrich and Kremitzki paired up for a combined thirteen points scoring five and seven points respectively.

Cerro Gordo never threatened in the third and fourth frames due to a suffocating black and gold defense that forced over twenty-five turnovers and swiped seventeen steals in the game allowing Kohlbecker to sub freely throughout the final two frames. Kremitzki was a ball hawk donating a game-high six steals to the cause finishing one better than the speedy Tabeling who corralled five, two of which she turned into buckets on the other end. “This was a great game for us to work on our depth,” stated the coach. “Once we knew the game was in hand it allowed us to get a lot of players some experience and it also allowed us to work on various aspects of our offense and defense”

The first four minutes of the third quarter proved to be the difference in the game against Villa Grove. An eight-point run to open the third erased a four-point Warrior advantage at the break and ultimately changed the game after the two area heavyweights traded leads eight times in the first two periods.  The Lady Blue Devils stayed in front the rest of the way.  Coach Dan Sappenfield’s starters never left the floor throughout the forty-eight minutes of action dodging foul trouble late sealing the deal at the line late going six for six from the stripe in the final three minutes of the contest.

Tabeling had the hot hand early for Tuscola scoring five in the first and then joined with freshman Ella Boyer in the backcourt early in the fourth to keep it close. The Warrior guards accounted for all but eight of Tuscola’s twenty-second half points. Boyer energized the lineup collecting all four of her steals in the final 10-minutes of the contest. She also was strong on offense late scoring all six of her points in a four-minute stretch in the final stanza. Dietrich posted a nice stat line as well grabbing six rebounds and four steals while providing four points on the offensive end.

Kohlbecker’s crew was solid in every stat category but one, three point shooting. Tuscola hit just under fifty percent of their shots from the field on eighteen of thirty-nine from the floor but missed all fifteen attempts from down town. They turned the Blue Devils over fifteen times, stole eleven balls, and grabbed twenty-seven rebounds but it was not enough. “When you go 0 for 15 from the arc and also struggle at the free throw line (seven of thirteen) you are not going to win many ball games. The first three or four minutes of the second half I feel is where we lost the game but a commend the girls for playing hard till the end.”

The Lady Warriors open Central Illinois Conference play when they return home this Thursday night December 5, hosting a good Clinton team after starting the week on the road at Saint Joseph Ogden.

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