Red-hot Borden ousts host SC
South Central knew it had some work to do.
With a two-week break from the regular-season finale against Borden and the rematch between the Southern Athletic Conference rivals, South Central was hoping to gain some ground in the latter meeting.
On the road, South Central lost by 20 to the SAC co-champs during the year. This time around, in the Class A sectional semi-final, hosted by the Lady Rebels, the home-court advantage didn’t aid much. South Central also welcomed the return of Ally Davis, a freshman who started in the early season before suffering an injury setback in early December.
Borden proved, with an electric start to the game and second half, it had South Central’s number. Behind a double-double by Natalie Ruedinger, Borden cruised to the final with a 62-34 victory.
‘I thought we were about as prepared as we could be for them,’ South Central coach Randall Schoen said. ‘We got ourselves in a hole early and couldn’t get out. We weren’t aggressive at all on offense. We never shot a free throw in the second half.’
Before South Central could settle into any offensive rhythm, Borden utilized several turnovers to take a quick 11-1 lead. Miscues led to points by Taylor Streander and Riley Schindler.
Alexis Knear score South Central’s first field goal halfway through the first stanza, going coast to coast to convert a 3-point play.
The middle section of the quarter provided the lone string of scores for South Central. Gracie Day hit a jumper, then Davis scored on a follow-up. Knear ended a 9-2 South Central spurt. The effort brought them within three points, 13-10.
Borden, stretching the lead back out, scored the quarter’s final six points, with four coming from Ruedinger at the line.
South Central found itself in foul trouble early with starters Jasmine Nalley and Chelsey Kaiser picking up two. Knear also joined the foul issues, picking up her third in the second quarter, as did Kaiser.
Once Borden’s lead went to double digits, 22-12, with a Streander freebie, South Central was never able to get inside a 10-point deficit.
For the game, South Central struggled mightily from downtown. The Lady Rebels went two of 17 with Sydney Lewis and Sabra Walker sinking the only treys.
‘We shoot 11 percent, and we were set on jacking up threes instead of getting to the rim and maybe getting to the line,’ Schoen said.
Borden extended its halftime lead of 32-20 to 41-20 with 11 unanswered points. The Lady Braves also started the fourth quarter quickly. South Central was held without a field goal in the final frame until Davis hit back-to-back shots with less than a minute remaining.
‘You could tell Ally was really rusty,’ Schoen said. ‘She did a good job finding shots, but she missed quite a few. We worked on getting the ball to the middle and inside. We have to be able to hit 10- to 15-foot shots.’
Davis nearly had a double-double, scoring 10 points while gathering eight rebounds. She also had two steals.
Knear, another South Central freshman, led the team in scoring with 13 points. She also had three assists and two steals.
‘I feel bad for the seniors, but I really feel like we’ll be back,’ Schoen said.
After winning seven sectional titles in the 2000s, South Central has yet to earn the top spot since 2010.
‘They need a lot of work,’ Schoen said of the young group.
The Lady Rebels will graduate two seniors: Breana Blackman and Nalley.
‘I told them Borden doesn’t lose much,’ Schoen said. ‘If we don’t really work hard ‘ and I’m not sure these kids understand playing games all summer isn’t the whole thing ‘ we have to work on getting shots off quicker. It’s little things we really need to work on. It takes working hard on your own to get there.’
Schoen is eager to see if the heart-wrenching pain of losing in a sectional sticks beyond the initial reaction.
‘I like to think this group has it, but we’ll find out in June how bad this hurts,’ the veteran coach said. ‘They are willing to go to the gym next door right now to get better, but will they have that same fire this summer?’
Borden went on to capture its fourth sectional in the last five tries, handily defeating Christian Academy of Indiana, 78-36, in the championship. In three postseason games, the Lady Braves outscored their opponents by an average of 68-30.
‘Breanna and Jasmine have been really good role models this year,’ Schoen said of the senior group. ‘They did a great job in practice, but they didn’t do enough three or four years ago to make a big difference right now.’
South Central finished with an 8-16 record. Schoen said if Davis had been healthy all year, the mark may have been different.
‘I know we would have been better with Ally all year, but we didn’t have a real good season,’ Schoen said. ‘Having Ally back won’t be the entire answer. It’s hard losing on your home floor. This is the third sectional we’ve hosted, and it’s the first time we’ve lost on our home floor.’
Borden 19 13 17 13 ‘ 62
South Central 10 10 10 4 ‘ 34
Borden (15-7) ‘ Ruedinger 20, R. Schindler 15, Nestor 12, Streander 9, P. Schindler 4, Harmes 2.
South Central (8-16) ‘ Knear 13, Davis 10, Lewis 3, Walker 3, Nalley 2, Day 2, Kiper 1.
3-point goals ‘ Borden 2 (Nestor 2); South Central 2 (Lewis, Walker).