By Lenny Sementi
Sullivan’s state ranked Lady Redskins used a big run late in a Central Illinois Conference showdown in a battle of the conference bigwigs handing Tuscola its first loss of the season last Thursday, February 25 45-38. And two days later on Saturday it was a big 31-point first frame that led to their demise as another ranked squad Tri-County utilized five threes to slide past coach Tim Kohlbecker’s Lady Warriors 56-46.
The two games ended a brutal stretch of five games in seven days that included three state ranked teams and some of the best players in the state and most likely decided the CIC crown heading to Sullivan. Hope Dietrich was big early taking a steal coast to coast for a bucket and then put back a rebound on the offensive end as four Warriors found their way into the scorebook in the first frame but it was not enough as the Lady Redskins took a 13-10 lead into the second.
Tuscola took its first lead of the game at the 4:34 mark in the second following a Sophie Kremitzki three putting coach K’s group up by one 21-20. Brynn Tabeling followed that up with a runner in the lane but two buckets by home team gave the Redskins the lead at the half 24-23.
Marissa Russo was a big part of the plan in the third battling her way to six of her ten points in the quarter only to watch Sullivan hit a late basket delivering a 41-35 at the buzzer. The Warrior post was good on five of nine from the field while hauling in a team best 8-rebounds.
Dietrich cut into the lead with a three with six minutes left in the game but that was the last point the Warriors would put on the board. Sullivan scored nine unanswered to end the contest taking over sole possession of first place in the conference. The Wing was a jack-of-all-trades for Tuscola delivering seven points, four steals, three assists and three rebounds. Tabeling added eight points to her totals, four assists and four rebounds.
“ This game was much closer than the final score indicates, we played great defense most of the game,” Kohlbecker stated. “Problem was we just didn’t make shots and we had some really good looks. They may be the tallest team we will see and their length in the 1-2-2 zone bothered us to a degree. Bottom line is you have to make shots to win!”
Tri-County used six three’s in the first quarter to build a 22-point lead at the end of one. Russo and Hannah Hornaday both scored early in the second and Dietrich had bookend threes at the front and back of the stanza helping the ladies in black and gold cut ten points of the advantage entering the break down 39-27. Dietrich ventured outside the arc again in the third, as did Tabeling but consistent scoring throughout the second half secured the win for the Titans.
Dietrich ended the night with a team-best 15 points while Tabeling fell one assist short of a double-double accounting for ten points and nine assists. Russo added ten points to the cause and was just one board short of a double-double as well grabbing nine rebounds.
“They are a very good offensive team that came out on fire and played very fast, unlike any team we have seen this year,” stated the coach. “They lived up to their number four ranking. Their first quarter threes were college worthy. We made some adjustments and started our comeback. Our kids never doubted and showed how mentally and physically tough we are. We got back to eight but misfired offensively and could not quite climb out of the deep hole we dug!”
“Brynn played every minute of these past two games, which I don’t want to do but feel I had to. She competes so hard, and plays with a fire whenever the chips are down. Hope had a tremendous game offensively and defensively. Her Laney (Cummings) and Taylor (Musgrave) primarily responsible for shutting down their best player. Hannah (Hornaday) gave us energy; she came in and was tremendously productive. I could say positives about everyone but it boils down to we may not have won on the scoreboard, but to me this team showed what winners are all about. So intensely proud of their resilience and heart!”