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South makes it back-to-back

South makes it back-to-back
South makes it back-to-back
The South Central Lady Rebels celebrate their sectional championship Saturday night after defeating Borden 55-50. (Photo by Brian Smith)

The grind of a tough schedule ‘ starting the season 3-5 before Christmas and then going 0-3 at the Floyd Central Holiday tournament ‘ may have set doubts in South Central’s ability to repeat as sectional champions.
Yet, the purpose of the tough schedule reaped the ultimate reward Saturday night, as the Lady Rebels pulled through foul problems to knock off Borden, 55-50, to win the Class A South Central girls’ basketball sectional on their home court. The win showed those outside South Central there was no doubt.
‘I just kept telling the team all year that winning isn’t supposed to be easy and winning sectional isn’t going to be easy,’ South Central coach Randall Schoen said. ‘The schedule we played was pretty much the same we had in place last season, and maybe early on it was a little bit too much for this team. But I think playing the schedule we did got us here today. When things were tough, I could see us come together and draw on the experience we had playing the teams we played early on.’
After missing every 3-point attempt against New Washington the night before, South Central came out blazing from behind the arc. Sophomore Shelby Miller and junior Whitney Pease nailed two threes each to help propel the Lady Rebels to an 18-6 run to open the game.
Borden didn’t wait long to get going. The team closed the first quarter on a 12-0 run, backed by seven points from senior Andrea Rademacher, to tie the game at 18.
‘When coach talked to us in the locker room, we knew we weren’t going to do what we did to New Wash last night,’ Lady Rebel senior Kirsten Kingsley said in regard to starting quickly and keeping a big lead all game. ‘We knew we played better teams before, but it was going to be a fight against Borden, and we wanted to defend our home floor.’
Borden took the lead in the second quarter, thanks in large part to freshman Erin Mikel hitting back-to-back field goals. Borden, seeking its first sectional since 2003, used a 5-0 run to lead, 30-27, at halftime.
‘When it started out, we thought, OK, we hit some threes early,’ Schoen said. ‘I think, maybe in a way, it hurt us a little bit. We did loosen up with a few threes, but our defense wasn’t as intense as what it had been.’
In the second half, South Central had to overcome some adversity, as starters Paige Kingsley, Megan Sherrard, Kirsten Kingsley and Miller dealt with foul issues.
Instead of sulking, the Lady Rebel bench picked up the pace. Junior Abby Day scored four consecutive points from Katie Dennison assists to take a 42-40 lead after three quarters.
Dennison carried over her strong effort into the fourth quarter, scoring a quick field goal. Pease followed with a 3-pointer, giving South Central a commanding 47-40 edge.
From that point, South Central never relinquished the lead despite Miller and Paige Kingsley fouling out. The Lady Rebels had a strong defensive effort, holding Rademacher, the state’s second leading scorer, to five second-half points.
‘Rademacher, we didn’t have an answer for her at all in the first half,’ Schoen said. ‘I thought we did a better job in the second half. We challenged the girls, be-cause she was controlling the game. I thought they stepped up in the second half, and we used several combinations on her.’
Dennison was one of the key sparks, mainly defending Rademacher.
‘We talked that she may not be a big spark offensively, but she guarded (Callie) Burgin last night when we were in foul trouble, and tonight she had Rademacher,’ Schoen said. ‘She is drawing some tough assignments.’
South Central was led in scoring by Sherrard with 18 points, a senior who enjoyed the moment after the game.
‘It’s so exciting,’ Sherrard said. ‘There are times when I thought, ‘Are we going to pull this thing out?’, but when it came down to it, this is our floor and we had the confidence to get it done.’
Miller was held to nine points, but was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Performer. The sectional title was the sixth in seven years for the Lady Rebel program.
‘It feels good, because being a senior, you know what it feels like,’ Kirsten Kingsley said. ‘Last year, as an underclassman, you didn’t understand what it fully felt like. Now we do, and we are happy. Now, we need to take it to the next level.’
Schoen echoed that winning sectional isn’t something to take for granted.
‘It’s always special,’ he said. ‘I told the girls, if it was easy, everybody would do it. But it is not easy. This was one of the tougher ones, with so many players sitting on the bench. We relied on the bench to win this one for us.’
Mikel led Borden in scoring with 23 points, and Rademacher added 20.
South Central advances to the North Daviess Regional where the Lady Rebels face Wood Memorial in a rematch from last year’s first round. Wood Memorial won that game, 61-56.
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