Posted Online: Feb. 14, 2013, 10:17 pm

Sherrard ousted in 2A sectional finals for third straight year

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By Terry Duckett,

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Paul Colletti
Sherrard's Erin Barton passes the ball around El Paso/Gridley's Rebekah Ehresman during the IHSA Class 2A Orion Sectional championship game in Orion on Thursday, February 14, 2013.
ORION -- There's not much Carly Adams hasn't done in a stellar varsity career with the Sherrard girls' basketball program.

Unfortunately for the Tigers' senior point guard, a sectional championship will be one of the few things to elude her grasp, and that of her teammates.

In the Sweet 16 for the third straight season, Sherrard's bid for its first girls' sectional title since 1990 once again hit a roadblock, this time by El Paso-Gridley. Using a relentless defensive attack and a third-quarter surge, the Titans turned a precarious three-point halftime lead into a 62-45 victory Thursday night in the Class 2A Orion Sectional finals.

"This is the biggest heartbreak of my senior year,'' said Adams, who finished with a team-best 18 points for the Tigers (27-4). "We definitely were not going to lay down until the last buzzer sounded. We played with heart; we just didn't get the job done. But I wouldn't pick another group of girls, or group of coaches, to have done this with.''

With Sherrard showing its usual balanced offense to try and counter El Paso-Gridley's pesky defenders, it hung close with the Titans (28-1) throughout the first half. After EPG went up 10-3 midway through the first quarter, the Tigers settled down, closing the gap to three on Riley Strandgard's bucket before EPG took a 14-9 lead after one.

Scoring seven of her nine points in the first half, Strandgard (five rebounds) did her part to keep the Titans from gaining any separation in the second quarter. Her three-point play with 2:14 left before halftime closed the deficit to 19-17, and then she hit a pair of free throws late to make it a 24-21 game. The Tigers did get a jump ball with 5.1 seconds on the clock, but Erin Barton's 3-point try came up short.

Despite committing 13 turnovers in the first half, Sherrard was keeping it close, but a number of missed opportunities in the paint ultimately proved costly as the game wore on.

"We knew they'd run their 1-2-2 trap; that's what we expected,'' said Sherrard coach Doug Swanson. "We just weren't executing enough times to be successful, and the times we didn't turn it over, we were missing an easy shot or just not getting a bounce. They got some early steals that set us back and got us out of our rhythm.''

Led by junior point guard Rebekah Ehresman's 26 points, six rebounds and five steals, El Paso-Gridley also got a boost from senior Jenna Souhrada. Held scoreless at halftime, Souhrada scored 10 of her 15 points in the third quarter as EPG capitalized on the Tigers' foul trouble to work its way to a 42-29 lead entering the fourth period.

"We knew we had to come in and play good, tough defense, and we knew we had to get to them early in the third quarter,'' said Souhrada, whose efforts helped the Titans advance to Monday's Monmouth Super-Sectional with their first-ever sectional title. EPG will face Somonauk Sectional winner Byron (31-2).

Having made a comeback in last year's sectional finals only to fall a point short, Sherrard tried it again. But after Adams made it a 44-34 game early in the fourth, EPG went on a 12-0 run to take its biggest lead at 56-34, and the Tigers never got back within single digits after that.

Junior Shelby Calderone added eight points and agame-high 10 rebounds for Sherrard with Annie Winston and Skyler Setser each adding five boards.

"We have to be proud of what we accomplished -- a school-record 27 wins, our third straight conference title, third straight regional title and third straight Sweet 16,'' said Swanson."Hopefully we get this opportunity to come back next year and take advantage of that opportunity. But this doesn't take away from what we did.''

Class 2A girls
Orion Sectional
El Paso-Gridley 62, Sherrard 45
Ehresman 9-18 7-9 2 6 26, Kessinger 1-3 3-6 3 1 5, Souhrada 5-12 4-5 1 2 15, Schlipf 5-8 0-1 5 7 10, Buchanan 1-2 0-0 4 5 2, DeVary 0-2 0-0 2 0 0, Bigger 2-3 0-0 3 2 4, Murphy 0-0 0-0 0 1 0, Hickey 0-0 0-0 0 1 0, Roark 0-0 0-0 0 0 0. Totals 23-48 14-21 20 25 62.
Adams 6-15 4-6 2 2 18, Barton 1-9 1-4 4 2 3, Winston 1-2 0-0 4 5 2, Strandgard 2-3 5-9 5 5 9, Calderone 3-11 2-5 1 10 8, Setser 2-3 1-2 3 5 5, Redpath 0-1 0-0 0 1 0, Willems 0-0 0-0 0 0 0, Mital 0-0 0-0 0 0 0. Totals 15-43 13-26 19 30 45,

EP-G                14  10  18  20 -- 62
Sherrard             9  12   8  16 -- 45
3s: EP-G 2-11 (Ehresman 1-2, Souhrada 1-6, Schlipf 0-1, Buchanan 0-1, DeVary 0-1), Sherrard 2-12 (Adams 2-5, Redpath 0-1, Barton 0-6). Turnovers: Sherrard 21, EP-G 12. Steals: EP-G 16 (Ehresman 5, Souhrada 3), Sherrard 2 (Barton, Strandgard). 3-point showdown advancers: Carly Adams, Sherrard (9); Cheyenne Bowman, Rockridge (8); Sydni Hare, Macomb (8); Brittany Danley, Farmington (7).