Girls Basketball: SBA, Hall to meet in final

Members of the Hall girls basketball team celebrate during the No. 2-seeded Lady Red Devils 49-21 victory over No. 6 Putnam County in a Class 2A Hall Regional semifinal Wednesday in Spring Valley.

If you missed the first two meetings between the St. Bede and Hall girls basketball teams, don’t worry because you have one more opportunity to catch the rivalry game this season.

This time, it will be for the Class 2A Hall Regional final at 7 p.m. Thursday in Spring Valley.

The Lady Bruins and the Lady Red Devils — which are 1-1 on the season — set up the rubber band game with semifinal victories on Wednesday as No. 2-seeded Hall defeated No. 6 Putnam County 49-21 and No. 5 St. Bede upset No. 3 Seneca 52-50 in overtime.

The players are ready for the championship showdown.

“We have so much momentum going into Hall,” SBA senior Maggie Sons said. “We know we can get them. We got them last time at Hall. We just have to come with the mentality we have had the last three games. We will go at them.”

Sons isn’t the only senior excited about defeating a rival for a regional plaque as senior Janessa Hart is confident in the Lady Red Devils.

“We played St. Bede plenty, so we know what we can do and what we can’t do,” Hart said.

Semifinal No. 1

Hall 49, Putnam County 21

The Lady Devils wanted to punch their ticket into the final early against Putnam County.

During the first 5 ½ minutes of the semifinal, it was all Hall as it stormed to a 12-0 lead.

“They did a really nice job of taking everything away,” Lady Panthers coach Jared Sale said. “They game planned well. You have to give their defense credit. Early on, it was our offense. They got turnovers for layups and got off to a fast start. We didn’t (get off to a fast start) tonight like we did Monday.

“We were in a 12-0 hole and the closest we got was within eight. We couldn’t get a lot of shots to fall. We got a lot of foul calls. I wasn’t very happy about that. I’m not one to complain about officiating, but I thought there were a lot of missed calls.”

Hall (19-8) took a 16-6 lead into the second, had a 27-14 advantage at halftime and were up 38-14 after three quarters.

The Hart cousins went to work against PC (17-14) as junior Hanah Hart finished with 17 points and six rebounds, while Janessa Hart had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds to go with five steals, an assist and a block.

“We practiced what to do in certain situations because we played them at their school earlier in the season,” Janessa Hart said. “I had trouble guarding the post because they have two players down there. I had to get my position in the post but still have enough room to get there if they passed it to the other post or somewhere else.

“We practiced that and that helped me a lot with my rotations.”

Hall coach Brian Holman openly admits he is hard on Janessa and his other post players.

But, he also applauds them for a job well done.

“Janessa deserves the credit. I’m hard on her because I expect so much out of her,” Holman said. “She could do that on a nightly basis if she wanted to. It was nice to see tonight because she is a senior and one of these games is going to be her last.

“Over these last five games, she has really stepped up and has been an absolute force. I’m awfully proud of her. I’m tough on the middles because they have to do so much. She has become a really nice basketball player.”

Holman was proud of how his team executed offensively.

After a few lows this season, he is excited to see ultimate highs in the postseason.

“We executed awfully well. We finally put some things together at the end of the season,” Holman said. “That’s probably one of our better efforts out of our 27 games. That was good. We executed just about everything. We have a lot of things we can do, it was just a matter if it was going to work or look good.”

PC ended their season Wednesday, but Sale knows his players should hold their heads high.

“We were fortunate to play in two championships,” Sale said. “We won the Princeton Holiday Tournament and were in the Tri-County Conference Tournament championship. We had a very successful season. This is the most wins this group has had since they’ve been in high school.

“Our four seniors (Madelyn Dzierzynski, Megan Wiesbrock, Lindsey DiazDeleon and Annie Sabotta) are class acts. This is the most enjoyable group I’ve had. They came to work everyday and worked hard. There were some highs and lows, but they wanted to come and show up on a daily basis to get getter. They made this program better and set the stone work for the future.”

Dzierzynski led PC with eight points as she made the only two 3-pointers of the game for the Lady Panthers.

Semifinal No. 2

St. Bede 52, Seneca 50 (OT)

When watching the Lady Bruins battle the Lady Irish, it was hard not to think of the phrase “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

SBA was the definition of tough as it was down 34-23 halfway through the third quarter, but found a way to march back in the game.

The Lady Bruins limited second-half turnovers, made smart passes and played physical, turnover-causing defense.

“It’s the girls. They gutted, they hearted, they played smart, they adjusted and they listened,” SBA coach Tom McGunnigal said. “They came though and executed. There were times where I didn’t know. We were down by 11 and I didn’t know how we were going to respond to it. We’ve been responding to the positive. It has been everybody pulling the rope in the same direction.

“We made plays. We made individual plays and chipped away on both sides of the floor. It was a total team effort.”

The rally started in the very same quarter as SBA went on a 9-5 run to end the third quarter and cut the Lady Irish lead to 39-32.

The Lady Bruins’ heroics had just begun as the defense turned up a notch and helped Seneca finish the game with 32 turnovers. SBA had 25 turnovers with most of them coming in the first half as it tried to figure out the Irish’s full-court press.

“We just didn’t execute down the stretch,” Seneca coach Ted O’Boyle said. “We were at the line at the end of regulation (and missed) some free throws. It’s tough to beat a team three times. We knew that coming into the game. When you play the style we play — we’re up-tempo and want to press — when you haven’t seen it and are new to it, it’s really effective. The more times you play somebody, the more they get used to it and are able to adapt to it.

“Give all of the credit to them. They took it to us. They were physical. They matched us bucket for bucket. We were up in the second half and they made a heck of a comeback. It hurts right now. We were fully expecting to play in the final. This is a tough one.”

The Lady Bruins (15-14) tied the game at 40-40 with 4:14 left in the fourth and were able to match Seneca (22-6) offensively to end regulation at a 46-46 tie.

In overtime, the SBA defense remained fierce and the Lady Bruins stepped up to the free throw line and made just enough to pull out the comeback upset to advance to the final.

“We played defense and when we came back, we knew they were going to foul us,” said Sons, who had game highs of 16 points, eight assists and six steals to go along with five rebounds. “With the mentality of us knowing we were going to the line, we just had to make adjustments at the line and we had it.

“Our posts really boxed out inside. Like I said the other night, we just got up in them and made them freak out. We forced them to travel and we stole the ball. It was good defense. We did a good job.”

Sons was joined by juniors Macy Bosnich, who put the Lady Bruins on her shoulders offensively in the first half, and Hannah Johnson in the double-digit scoring club as both scored 10 points.

Junior Christine Senica hauled in nine rebounds and senior Naomi Ochuba pulled in eight boards.

“It was our third time playing them and I felt I knew them pretty well,” McGunnigal said. “I felt pretty confident and I tried to pass that confidence on to the girls, and just kept steady with it. There were a couple of times where we lost our heads, but again, in the second half we took care of it.”

Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.

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