Tom Batters
Ron Carrothers has turned Peoria Notre Dame into a contender in his first year as head coach.

A few weeks ago, when I attended the Peoria Notre Dame girls basketball scrimmage game, I sensed that something was different under first-year coach Ron Carrothers.

Players set hard screens and dove for loose balls. On offense, all five players moved constantly, even when they didn’t have the ball. On defense, guards and forward alike waved their arms in the air and made it tough for anyone to get off a good shot.

So, when the Lady Irish beat Woodruff, 43-37, at Woodruff last week, I was only a little surprised. Woodruff, a team loaded with talent, was the favorite on its home floor, but Notre Dame’s win was only a mild upset. It wasn’t one of those “David beats Goliath” games.

Thanks to Carrothers’ influence, and a roster full of talented players, Notre Dame is no longer the “David” against Mid-State 6 Conference “Goliaths” Richwoods, Woodruff and Central.

Junior forward Elle Bielfeldt, who had 13 points against Woodruff, is one of the best kept-secrets in the conference.

She is only 5’10”, but she plays a tough, physical game inside, and she is a tenacious defender. She is very quick on her feet, and not many players can drive past her in the paint.

Sophomore point guard Kristin Itschner had 12 points against Woodruff. Look for her to emerge as one of the most exciting guards to watch in the conference this year. She is cool and confident when she brings the ball up the floor, and she does not make many mistakes.

Junior forward Sarah Medland is only 5’8” but she held her own in the paint against Woodruff, with six points.

So, I am convinced. From now on, I will not refer to any Notre Dame win as an “upset.” The Lady Irish may not win the conference, but they will contend with the top teams each night.


Dunlap gave Morton a good battle Friday night before losing, 65-57, in its first Mid-Illini Conference game of the season.

Brooke Bisping, Morton’s All-State guard who will play at Bradley next year, had 23 points and made all 13 of her free throws.

This was not a bad loss for the Lady Eagles. Not many teams will stop Bisping this year.

There were some good signs for Dunlap. The Lady Eagles out-rebounded the Potters, 30-23. Seniors Jenni Erlandson (16 points) and Anna Kreuser (14 points) each had a solid game.

Dunlap, however, only made eight of 14 free throws. Morton was 18 of 19 from the line.


Richwoods coach John Gross got a few more gray hairs in his beard last week.

After a home loss to Peoria Central on Tuesday and a close home win over Morton Thursday, Gross said he is “dumbfounded” and “very concerned” about his team’s performance so far this season.

“We have seniors who are making mistakes and not taking care of the basketball,” Gross said. “I’m not happy with the way we’re playing. We need to get a lot better.”

Personally, I thought Gross was a little too hard on the Lady Knights.

I thought they showed a lot of promise against Morton, especially when they went on an impressive 12-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to put the game away.

Senior guard Amber Metzger did a nice job defending Bisping, who had just eight points in the first half. Metzger also made two clutch free throws to give Richwoods a five-point lead with 25 seconds left.

Sophomore guard Mariah Smith had 21 points and earned the praise of Morton coach Bob Becker.

When I asked him if Smith was a tough assignment, he said, “Do you think so? Yeah, she’s tough. She can hit shots from anywhere, and she’s a handful in the paint.”