By Lenny Sementi
Marissa Russo dominated the lane a few weeks back in a home loss to Warrensburg-Latham but it was not enough as the Lady Cardinals rallied from a double-digit deficit in the fourth to squeak out a win at the buzzer. The junior post and her buddies entered the Central Illinois Conference tournament as the fifth seed and were all smiles when they were issued a redo against the fourth seeded Cardinals in the opening round of the tourney.
Russo upped the ante from her earlier outing against Warrensburg scoring a game-high eighteen points on eight of ten from the field while also leading the way in the rebound and steals department securing eight boards and seven steals in a 43-24 victory. Brynn Tabeling located the post for three of her team-best five assists and also did some damage in the scorebook tallying ten points. Abbey Jacob was next up with five points following with four points each were Hope Dietrich and Sophia Kremitzki. Lainey Cummings was right behind Russo in the steals column swiping five of the teams eighteen steals on the afternoon.
“Our young ladies were really pumped for this game after losing to them by a few games back,” commented coach K.. “We challenged them to take care of the ball, share the ball, avoid stretches with empty possessions, and play like their hair was on fire.”
Tuscola took a different route defensively from the first contest early in the contest throwing a zone at the Lady Cardinals to open the game resulting in seven steals in the first frame and five more in the second disrupting the flow of their offense. Russo hit a pair of buckets in first two minutes of the game and Tabeling followed it up with two later in the stanza as the Warriors ran out to 13-6 lead after one.
Tabeling found Russo down low for a layup to open the second allowing Jacob some room on the outside for a three two possessions later as Warrensburg collapsed inside in an attempt to slow down Tuscola’s low post scoring. Hannah Hornaday had a big bucket off the bench and Russo converted again in the paint giving Tuscola a 23-12 lead at the break.
Defense slammed the door in the third limiting the higher seed to just two points in the period as Tuscola doubled the output through three heading to the final eight minutes on top 33-14. Four more by both Russo and Tabeling ended any hopes of a Cardinal comeback securing Tuscola a shot at the top seeded Lady Redskins of Sullivan in the first semi-final at 6:00p.m. Tuesday evening. The Warriors move to 11-7 overall with the victory.
“This was one of our best games from beginning to end all season, everyone, and I mean everyone played very well. We had fourteen assists on nineteen baskets and eighteen steals.
I believe this is the first time in my coaching life that I did not play one possession of man to man it was all zone and they responded.”