Prep Girls Hoops: Lutheran Beats Unbeaten Mendota To Tie For Big Northern Lead

By Matt TrowbridgeRockford Register Star

MENDOTA — Lutheran couldn’t shoot down undefeated Mendota, so the Crusaders stole a “revenge” victory with defense.

On a night Lutheran shot six airballs and missed its first 13 3-pointers and fell behind by nine points early, the Crusaders still won easily, 52-43 Monday, to tie for the Big Northern West girls basketball lead.

“We weren’t making our outside shots, so we knew we had to drive the lane, get steals and win it with our defense,” said Baillie McGirk, who led Lutheran with 17 points and six steals.

Mendota (16-1, 5-1 BNC) had beaten Lutheran 61-60 in overtime when McGirk’s 3-pointer was waved off, coming a split-second after the buzzer.

“That was a bad loss,” McGirk said. “We wanted revenge. We didn’t need a pep talk or anything. We had to beat them to still have a shot (at the conference title).”

Mendota scored on five possessions in a row to end the first quarter on a 10-0 run and take a 15-6 lead.

“We knew we were going to have to play our butts off and get a momentum switch somehow pretty fast or they were going to put us away,” Lutheran center Abby Woollacott said. “We did it through defense.”

“We knew,” coach Joni Carlson said, “if we could just hang, hang, hang our defense in the end we would prevail. They have three four-year starters, but they have weaknesses, and that’s their ball-handling, especially to their left hand. We tried to force them left all night and gave them fits.”

Lutheran had a 13-5 edge in turnovers the middle two quarters to go up 36-32. Ashley Kerestes (10 points) finally hit a 3 to give Lutheran the lead for good, 34-32. Kaitlyn Strawbridge (12 points, seven assists) then ended the quarter with a driving layup.

Those baskets, and two more 3s, one by Kerestes and one by Kaylah Koehler, fueled an 18-5 run as Lutheran led by as much as 49-37.

Still, Lutheran shot only 19-for-51 and 3-for-19 on 3s.

“Their big girls are big, and we don’t always have answers for them (on offense),” Carlson said.

They didn’t need to.

“Defense prevailed tonight,” Carlson said.

Woollacott (eight points, 12 rebounds) anchored the inside defense, with McGirk and Strawbridge leading from the perimeter.

“Defense is always where our team gets its momentum,” Woollacott said. “They were ready for us, but we have a counter for everything.”

Especially on defense, where the Crusaders (13-3, 5-1) hounded Mendota’s stars, holding twins Abby and Ally Bromneschenkel to nine and seven points.

“Their guards got us out of rhythm,” Mendota coach Brent McKinney said. “We couldn’t come down and get right into the offense. When Abby or Ally had it, they had to constantly turn and try to make a move to get into our offense.”

Matt Trowbridge: 815-987-1383; [email protected]; @matttrowbridge



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