GIRLS BASKETBALL NOTEBOOK

Tom Batters
Kristin Itschner

The Peoria Notre Dame girls basketball team continues to take steps forward under new head coach Ron Carrothers.

The Irish earned a valuable road win Thursday at Washington, 50-49, with some last-second heroics.

Notre Dame sophomore Kristin Itschner hit a shot in the lane with eight seconds left to complete a late comeback.

Itschner had a game-high 18 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.

“Kristin’s got the capabilities of doing that,” Carrothers said.

The Lady Panthers called a timeout with 5.7 seconds left, but did not get a shot off after a turnover on a long pass.

Notre Dame senior Lexie Kramer looked like a defensive back on a Hail Mary attempt.

“She stayed awake there to make that interception,” Carrothers said.

Ellie Bielfeldt added 12 points for Notre Dame and Sarah Medland scored eight points.

The Irish trailed by four points with 2:26 left but were undaunted in their pursuit of a non-conference victory.

Baskets at 2:22 and 1:16 by Itschner drew Notre Dame even.

Washington re-gained the lead with 50 seconds remaining, but the Irish got another chance after the Lady Panthers missed the front end of a one-and-one at :23.7.

“For us to come over here and win is a step in the right direction,” Carrothers said.

Washington’s top two scorers, Sara Ohlman and Lexi Grayer, met their season averages with a combined 25 points, but it was not easy.

“We made them earn all the points they got,” Carrothers said.

Notre Dame held the Lady Panthers to 2-of-15 field-goal shooting in the first quarter en route to an 11-6 lead.

Lauren Purcell produced all seven of her points in a three-minute span of the opening period.

Washington heated up in the second quarter and gained a modest 26-24 margin at halftime by crashing the offensive boards.

The Irish scored eight of the first 10 points in the third frame with Bielfeldt leading the charge, but it was tied at 35 entering the fourth period as the Lady Panthers closed with a 7-3 run.

Notre Dame long ago surpassed its 2007-08 win total. Now it is learning to play with poise in crunch time.

“We’re starting to believe we can win close games,” Carrothers said.

Notre Dame plays at home against Woodruff at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

DUNLAP REGROUPS

I don’t know what Dunlap coach Joe Wenskus said to his team in practice last week.

Whatever it was, it worked.

The Lady Eagles lost, 35-32, at home to East Peoria Jan. 6, but then went on the road to beat Canton, one of the top teams in the Mid-Illini Conference.

After the loss to East Peoria, Wenskus was visibly upset and quite disappointed with his team’s effort.

“We let down after halftime,” he said after his team was outscored 25-15 in the second half. “I don’t know what to say, other than this was a very disappointing loss. We did not execute on offense, and we weren’t sharp. We have some work to do.”

That game was tied, 32-32, with 20 seconds left when East Peoria stole the in-bounds pass and made a three-point shot. Jenni Erlandson missed a three-point shot on the other end and  East Peoria held on for the win.

Erlandson, a lock for first-team all-conference honors, scored 12 points (she averages 17 points a game) against East Peoria. Anna Kreuser, the team’s second-leading scorer, had just seven points.

“East Peoria did a good job on our post players, and we didn’t react very well,” Wenskus said. “We have a size advantage on most teams, but that doesn’t guarantee us anything. We still have to execute on offense. We didn’t do that tonight. We didn’t look good at all on offense.”

Saturday against Canton was a different story. Kreuser led the team with 18 points. Erlandson scored 16 points.

Dunlap improved to 13-4, 3-3 in the conference.

The Lady Eagles are off until Jan. 23, when they play at Metamora.

LADY KNIGHTS VS. LADY LIONS PART 2

Way back on Dec. 2, the Peoria Central Lady Lions stormed onto Richwoods’ home court and handed the Lady Knights an early conference loss.

It was a definite low point of the season for Richwoods coach John Gross, who spoke of his frustration after that game.

Gross said he was “dumbfounded” and “searching for answers” after his senior-laden team turned the ball over, took bad shots and lost its focus late in the game.

Well, Richwoods (17-2) has not lost a game since.

That low point now seems very distant in the rear view mirror as the Lady Knights speed ahead toward another conference championship run.

Last year, Central beat Richwoods early in the season, and Richwoods went on to win the conference and advance to the Super-sectional.

The Lady Knights and Lady Lions meet again Tuesday, this time at Peoria Central.

Can the “new and improved” Lady Knights go into Central’s gym and avenge the earlier home loss to the Lady Lions?

In the first meeting, Central guard ShaVonn Watkins hit six three-pointers and center Tiffany Kellum had her way inside (eight second half points).

Richwoods post players Katie Murphy and Maddie Nieukirk combined for just six points in that game. Both players are playing much better, and staying out of foul trouble of late, so the matchup against Kellum in the post will be interesting to watch this time around.

Game time is at 7 p.m.