Lady Rebels fall short vs. WW in sectional
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
Having completed their first multi-win season since the 2019-20 school year, South Central looked to turn the page as the regular season gave way to the playoffs.
Going into this year’s Indiana High School Athletic Association state tournament, the Lady Rebels, hoisting a 2-20 record on their shoulders, looked to kick off Sectional 61 at Borden by confronting sectional newcomer West Washington. The Lady Senators’ regular season was only slightly better than the Lady Rebels, coming into the postseason with a 7-14 slate.
With their season on the line, the Lady Rebels nearly overcame a typically stagnant first half by scoring 47 points in the second half. Despite this rare offensive onslaught, including a game-high 25 points by freshman standout Gracelynn Bartoszek, the Lady Senators kept just enough of a distance to put an end to the Lady Rebels’ season, 70-62.
“We struggled a little bit last week, our shooting wasn’t the best and defensively we struggled. We tried a couple of different zone defenses, but I could never get the girls to buy in and play hard,” Lady Rebels’ skipper Lynne Thomas said. “We decided to switch it up and go man to man, which we had a little bit of success with. We’re just trying to do something different, find something that we can buy into.”
The Lady Rebels had a slow start to the contest as they managed only buckets from freshman Ava Schmelz and Bartoszek sandwiched between a trey from sophomore Olivia Maley. The Lady Senators took advantage of five Lady Rebels fouls in the frame as Jayla Batt and Shelby Griffitts teamed up to go 5 for 6 from the charity stripe as they scored four and three points, respectively. Lilly Thompson and Ava Woods added buckets alongside a triple from Meredith Deaton to take an early 14-7 lead.
Batt led the charge for the Lady Senators in the second quarter as she notched four points followed by three from Thompson and buckets from Woods and Griffitts. The Lady Rebels managed one point more than the previous period with four points from Kiper and baskets from Maley and sophomore forward Autumn Knear to bring the half-time margin to 25-15 in favor of the Lady Senators.
Offense for both sides kicked into overdrive to begin the second half as the Lady Senators barely outpaced the Lady Rebels 27-25 in the third quarter. Deaton was the primary catalyst for West Washington with nine points flanked by six apiece from Batt Thompson, five from Riley Hall and a freebie from Griffitts. After being held to just two points in the first half, Bartoszek exploded for 13 points followed by five each from Kiper and Maley and a bucket from Schmelz, making for a 52-40 Lady Senators’ edge.
The final period saw one of the Lady Rebels’ largest scoring outputs of the season continue as Bartoszek pumped in another 10 points while Kiper added six and Maley and Schmelz each chipped in three. Many of those points came at the foul line, where the four aforementioned Lady Rebels teamed up to go 10 for 16. It wasn’t enough to overcome the Lady Senators, who kept their distance with seven points from Batt, five from Thompson, a bucket from Griffitts and a combined 4 for 6 from the charity stripe between Deaton, Hall and Adelle Brown to sign off on their 70-62 victory.
“At halftime, we had the conversation about how we were only able to put things together in two quarters per game. We play well for one quarter then the wheels fall off during another. We just talked about stringing more good quarters together,” Thomas said. “With three seniors, it was time to leave it all on the floor (in the second half), and it was the same for the freshmen and sophomores. This was it; either we play hard or we go home.”
Alongside Bartoszek’s 25 points, Kiper added 15 while Maley chipped in 13. Batt paced the Lady Senators with 21 points while Thompson notched 16 and Deaton contributed 14.
With the loss, another season ends in the opening round of sectional for the Lady Rebels, who haven’t won a play-off game since winning their third consecutive sectional title in 2018. It also marks the end of the playing careers for the Lady Rebels’ trio of seniors: Kiper, Lexie Liebert and Millie Spencer. While this group has managed only six wins across four years, Thomas is looking forward more to what they will do outside the hardwood.
“We’ve had some really close games this year, many more than we’ve had in the past. To see the growth in these girls over the past year, I honestly couldn’t be more proud of them,” Thomas said. “After the game, I talked to our locker room towards our seniors about how we haven’t had a lot of wins. There’s been a lot of yelling and a lot of laughs, but not a lot of wins. As a coach, I would obviously love to win, but I’m here to help develop future leaders of our country and our world, so hopefully they’ll take away something that I’ve taught them into the real world, which is my main goal.”