By Lenny Sementi
What started out as an offensive shootout in the first half ended with coach Tim Kohlbecker’s Tuscola girls team shutting the door on win number five on the year with a defensive stand in the final frame. The Lady Warriors allowed just one ball to tickle the bottom of the net in the fourth in a Central Illinois Conference road win over a solid Shelbyville team 49-44.
“They were much improved from last year, pushed the tempo early and shot the ball very well,” stated the coach. “We didn’t play transition defense well in the first half. They were fast and it took us a little time to adjust to it and grasp how much they had improved. What was significant for us was our balanced scoring. ”
Hope Dietrich was tops in the scoring department for Tuscola. The junior delivered eleven points on four of seven from the floor while grabbing a team best eight rebounds and five steals. She hit an bucket early, then found her way to the line for two free throws late in the first in a back and forth affair that saw the Warriors fight their way past three Lady Rams three-pointers to grab a two point advantage 18-16 at the first buzzer.
“Hope turned in her best all around game for us,” Kohlbecker was quoted as saying. “She has not always believed in her shooting as much as the coaches do, she has great mechanics and is actually one of our best shooters.”
Brynn Tabeling and Marissa Russo donated to the big first period as well. Tabeling scored four of her ten points in the frame while Russo tallied six of her eight points in the initial eight-minute span. Tabeling found Russo for two of her game-high six assists and the post did her real damage on the boards grabbing a game-high thirteen of the Warriors season best thirty-five rebounds.
The continued assault from the outside by the home team netted two more threes and bolstered a seeventeen-point second quarter outburst that included a five-point run late in the frame leading to a three-point 33-30 Ram lead at the break. Tuscola utilized a balanced attack that saw five players score in the stanza highlighted by a Dietrich three ball to keep pace.
Kohlbecker turned up the heat on defense when the two teams returned to the floor limiting the Lady Rams open looks. Sophie Kremitzki was a big part the increased pressure and also joined with Dietrich to fuel the offense. The duo each hit a pair of mid range jumpers and Abbey Jacob drained a three netting the Warriors a 43-42 lead heading to the fourth. Kremitzki netted six points in the contest while Jacob delivered a much needed nine points.
It was a battle of attrition in final eight minutes with both teams struggling to score. Big buckets by Tabeling and Jacob proved to be enough as the Warriors held the home team to just two points in the quarter delivering their coach an early Christmas present in the form of win number two in the CIC.
The Rams Trinity Wade all with eighteen points in game, all of which came in the first three quarters forcing a defensive switch by Kohlbecker in the fourth. “I put Brynn on their best player and told her to stay with her no matter what,” Kohlbecker said. “We told her not worry about help line defense and just stay on her and Brynn did the rest shutting her out in the fourth.”
It was the third-straight win for Tuscola as they move to 5-3 on the year and 2-0 in the tough CIC conference. They wrap up pre holiday play with a road game at Uni High in Urbana on Wednesday and a home game on the morning of Monday, December 23 hosting Okaw Valley.