The Mid-Illini Conference provides no easy games and the Metamora girls’ basketball team knows this.
The team fell to Dunlap, 47-38, on the road Jan. 22.
“We started off slow, not scoring until one-minute left in the first quarter,” coach Riley Gardner said. “Our defense was much better as we held Dunlap to 11 points in the first quarter and we had good shot selection, they just wouldn’t fall.”
The Eagles started on an 11-4 run in the opening quarter.
In the second frame, the Redbirds started to set up their offensethanks to smart passes from Carrie James.
James led the team with 16 points.
At halftime, Metamora trailed, 23-13.
The Redbirds exploded for 15 points in the third quarter to cut into the Eagle lead.
“Freshman Peyton Roehnelt came off the bench in the second half and gave us a spark we needed on defense and offense,” Gardner said.
Kara Hartnett kept the Redbird offense racking up points when she knocked down high percentage shots and snatched rebounds away from Eagle defenders.
Heading into the final quarter, Metamora was trailing, 35-28.
In the final frame, the Redbird offense played well again but Dunlap held on to win the conference clash.
“When we played Dunlap earlier in the season, we dug a 20-point hold in the third quarter, allowing them to score 23 points in the third quarter alone,” Gardner said. “This go-around, we did a much better job on defense and, while we got good shots on offense, they just would not fall in our favor.
“The improvements are there and we continue to keep working hard. It was a much better effort and game this go-around and that is what we keep striving for.”
The team came close to putting up a “W” Saturday at home but ended up falling to Pekin, 48-42.
The Lady Redbirds jumped out to a 12-9 lead in the opening quarter thanks to aggressive offensive play that gave the team good looks at the hoop.
“We came out against Pekin the way we wanted to in terms of defensive pressure and trapping on full and half court,” Gardner said. “Cassidy Ioerger was a dominant force inside in the first half, Kristi Guzman was playing really well, hitting shots and getting to the rim in the first half and Hailey Mueller was really pushing the ball on offense, getting us some momentum as well.”
Ioerger spurred on the ‘Birds with accurate shooting from all over the court as well as passes through the Dragon defense.
Page 2 of 2 - Ioerger led the team with 12 points.
The team played fast and smart on offense throughout the first half and, thanks to defensive pressure that kept Pekin from getting comfortable, built a 25-20 lead at halftime.
The Dragons began to get their legs under them in the third quarter and slowly clawed into the Redbird lead.
Metamora’s offense continued making smart decisions in the third but the upped intensity of Pekin gave the girls trouble.
With eight minutes and one quarter remaining, Metamora clutched a 34-33 lead.
Throughout the final eight minutes, Pekin went on a scoring binge that put 15 points on the board.
While the Dragon offense was charged by drives to the hoop and a good mid-range game, the Redbird offense could not keep up and the team fell.
“Our biggest offensive issues, directly linked to pulling this game out, were missing some key open layups and being 6-18 from the free throw line,” Gardner said. “We need to make the easy shots under the basket and we need to finish free throws.
“We also need to get to the line more than 18 times for the game, which goes back to us not attacking the rim for good part of the second half. We shot 12 free throws in the first half and only six in the second half.”
The team next plays at 7 p.m. Friday at home against East Peoria.
“Overall, for the two games, our defensive pressure is there and getting better,” Gardner said.
“Our goal was to allow 10 points a quarter and giving up 47 and 48 points compared to our sometimes 60 is great improvement for us.
“Overall, we are young and doing a good job being leaders and continuing to elevate their game. Our younger players continue to get more comfortable and understanding of the varsity levels.”