With 10 losses in its first 12 games, the Ridgewood girls' basketball team had found itself searching for direction as the season approached its halfway point.|
Having reeled off 11 wins in 14 outings since that frosty start, the Spartans not only find themselves pointed in the right direction, but hoping that road can carry them past a field of Lincoln Trail Conference rivals at this week's Class 1A Annawan Regional.
Seeded fifth out of six teams, Ridgewood (14-13) begins its postseason journey tonight at 6 when it tangles with fourth-seeded ROWVA (14-12), a team that nipped the Spartans 49-48 in their lone previous meeting.
"We were ahead most of that game, then we kind of gave it away at the end,'' said Ridgewood coach Bryan Brooks. "Madison (Miller, a senior guard) was out with a torn meniscus in that game. Early on, we had multiple injuries to girls who get a lot of playing time, but we're pretty healthy now. There's a big rivalry between the two schools, so this is one we'd like to get back.''
Featuring a balanced lineup lead by junior guard Ashley Collins' eight points per game and junior forward Jasmine Jefko's seven points and eight rebounds a night, the Spartans also came on strong in LTC play to finish 6-3 and in fifth place as six of the 10 member schools posted winning conference records.
Should it prevail tonight, Ridgewood would find itself pitted against top-seeded Annawan (24-2) in Wednesday's 6 p.m. semifinal. Earlier in the year, the Bravettes handled the Spartans 74-36. However, Brooks feels there is a fundamental difference between his team then and now.
"In our area, you've always got to go through some of the best teams,'' he said, "but our girls think they deserve to play the best. They feel we're one of the better teams playing right now. They're pretty fearless, and they feel like the sky's the limit.''
Lady Cats look to brew an upset:Also at Annawan, the sixth-seeded Galva Lady Cats (10-17) are looking to brew up an upset as they tip off tonight at 8 against the third-seeded Lady Rebels from Stark County (18-8), who finished second in the LTC's regular-season and tournament races.
Led by senior forward and 1,000-point career scorer Alex Strom's 16 points and 10 rebounds per game, Galva could just as easily be hovering around the 20-win mark. According to coach Rick Cline, the Lady Cats have taken leads late into at least eight of their games, only to see them turn into losses.
"These girls are still learning how to win those games; it's a process,'' said Cline, "but from my soccer experience, I'm unashamedly using the `David and Goliath' story all the time. Right now, we're gathering up our flat stones.''
Boilers hoping for a little home cooking:In the Class 2A Orion Sectional complex, the Kewanee Boiler Girls (13-16) are hoping for a little home cooking as they host their own regional gathering. Seeded fourth after finishing .500 in the Three Rivers Conference, Kewanee gets down to business tonight at 7:30 when it welcomes No. 5 North Fulton to Brockman Gymnasium.
"We've had kind of a rough season, but we've got to take care of our own business now,'' said Kewanee coach Chuck Blake. "We can't worry about anyone else. We do tend to play pretty well at home, and our defense is giving up an average of 43 points per game. We've just had a hard time generating enough offense to win more games.''
Senior guard Jen Ensley is the key to the Boilers' offense, knocking down 54 3-point shots and averaging a team-best 10 points per game. Sophomore forward Raeshonda Chandler adds muscle in the paint with 10 rebounds per night.
Fillies starting fresh:After struggling to a 5-21 finish in Tyler Whitebread's first season as coach, the Morrison Fillies look to start fresh tonight when they take on West Carroll to open the Sterling Newman Regional. "We played them at Polo, and led for three quarters before losing by six,'' he said. "We have to play four solid quarters to come out on top.''
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