Saturday, March 1, 2014
HERMANN — The North Callaway Ladybirds still couldn’t alter the outcome in their favor against the Hermann Lady Bearcats.
With a Class 3, District 6 championship on the line Friday night in the third meeting of the season between the two teams, No. 2 seed North Callaway continually found itself in catch-up mode and eventually bowed to state-ranked and top-seeded Hermann 56-41.
The Ladybirds — completing their season with a 21-7 record — suffered a crushing 59-56 loss on Jan. 9 at Hermann when the Lady Bearcats lobbed in a desperation 3-pointer from halfcourt just before time expired. Nine days later, Hermann easily handled North Callaway 47-20 in the title game of the South Callaway Invitational Tournament on Jan. 18.
After Friday night’s setback prevented his Ladybirds from advancing to the state playoffs, head coach Matt Miller praised his players for not submitting.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the result, but I’m not upset or mad — or sad,” Miller said. “I’m disappointed we lost, but I’m extremely proud of the girls and everything they’ve done all year.
“You’ve got to tip your hat to a darn good team. (About) half of our losses are to the same team. (Hermann) is a good team, we knew that and we gave them a good battle.”
North Callaway will lose four seniors — guards Jaida Gray and Tara Oberlag, and forwards Maddie Sorell and Kelsey Coil — from a squad that surpassed 20 wins, played for a district title and claimed a share of the Eastern Missouri Conference title in its first season under Miller.
“I’m extremely proud of everything these girls have done, all the way back to the summer,” Miller said. “They bought in and I couldn’t be more proud of a group of girls for working their tails off this year.”
North Callaway trailed 26-18 going into halftime Friday night, but then went scoreless for almost 5 minutes to start the third quarter as the Lady Bearcats (25-1) — ranked No. 2 in the state — created a double-digit advantage. Senior forward Hayley Stiers’ basket underneath closed out a 9-0 run and put Hermann up 35-18 with 3 minutes, 22 seconds left in the quarter.
Oberlag then supplied a much-needed spark for the Ladybirds, ending their offensive futility in the period when she scored on a putback on their ensuing trip down the floor. Oberlag proceeded to deliver seven points in a 10-2 North Callaway run as it narrowed its gap to nine.
Sophomore guard Erinn Bush finished off the spurt when she scored in the lane, pulling the Ladybirds within 37-28 at the 1:16 mark. Bush was fouled and had a chance to complete a three-point play, but missed the free throw.
Whatever momentum North Callaway had gained, though, was promptly deflated when senior forward Kristen Leimkuehler’s 3-pointer from the left wing beat the buzzer and sent the Lady Bearcats to the fourth quarter with a 40-28 edge. The Ladybirds were unable to get closer than 12 points the rest of the way and Hermann wrapped up the District 6 championship by hitting 8-of-15 free throws over the final 8 minutes.
North Callaway made as many field goals (16) as Hermann, and had a better shooting percentage (36 to 31) than the Lady Bearcats. However, Hermann buried seven 3-pointers — six coming in the first half.
Sorell’s baseline jumper brought the Ladybirds within 11-10 with 1:43 remaining in the first quarter, but junior guard Tesla Ruediger answered with a pair of treys in the final 1:05 to give the Lady Bearcats a seven-point lead.
“That’s what makes them such a good team — they’re so hard to guard,” Miller said. “If you man (-to-man) them, they can give it to (senior forward Jamie) Gleeson down low and isolate her.
“If you zone them, they spread the floor with so many shooters. You hope they have an off-night. They didn’t tonight, at least in the first half.”
Oberlag topped the Ladybirds with nine points before fouling out with 6:38 to play in the game, while Sorell contributed eight. Junior guard Elaine Brinker — North Callaway’s leader in scoring (13.9 points per game) and assists (5.0 pg) — and Gray were both limited to seven points.
The Ladybirds finished just 16-of-45 from the field and committed 18 turnovers.
“They were (using) a box-and-one (defense) on Elaine … and she makes a lot of plays for us,” Miller said. “You give them credit defensively; they took a lot of that away. Then they really didn’t let Jaida breathe on the wing.
“They’re tall and lengthy too, so it’s kind of hard sometimes to score in the post. We tried to score in the post and we had trouble getting the ball there, or if we got it there had trouble scoring. That’s basketball.”
Gleeson tallied 12 of her game-high 18 points in the second half to guide Hermann, which made only 16-of-52 shots and logged 16 turnovers. Ruediger was next with 13 points and senior guard Karinne Lane provided 12.
The Lady Bearcats move on to face Cardinal Ritter (21-2) in a Class 2 sectional Wednesday night at St. Charles West High School.
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