LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS 1-28-09

Tom Batters
Pictured, from left, are Richwoods seniors Maddie Nieukirk, Cryshawn Johnson, Amber Metzger, Kelli Dunne, Danielle DesJardins, and Shyla Nott.

After his team lost, 62-26, last night against Richwoods, Peoria Notre Dame coach Ron Carrothers offered the only explanation he could think of regarding the Lady Knights’ dominance over the Irish this season (Richwoods also beat ND, 64-25 Dec. 9).

“The Richwoods girls must have some sort of mystical power over our girls,” he said. “They just have our number, and they take us completely out of our game. Seriously, though, Richwoods is ranked No. 5 in the state for a reason. They are big enough to create problems inside, and they have great shooters from the outside.”

The Irish, playing without leading-scorer Elle Bielfeldt, got off to a quick 2-0 lead on Lexie Kramer’s 10-foot jumper, but they never led again, and Richwoods opened up a huge lead that it would pad for the rest of the game.

The score was 15-6 at the end of the first quarter and 26-17 at halftime. The Lady Knights went on a 10-2 run to start the second half.

Carrothers said Bielfeldt, who averages 13 points and eight rebounds a game was sick, but she should be able to play Saturday against Rock Island.

On Senior Night, senior Maddie Nieukirk led Richwoods (23-3, 6-1) with 20 points. Senior Shyla Nott had nine points (three 3-point shots). Senior Danielle DesJardins (11 points) also had thre 3-pointers, all in the second half.

“Maddie was all over the place,” said Richwoods coach John Gross. “And, Shyla is a great offensive option for us. We just can’t find a way to get her into our defense.”

Nieukirk came out on fire in the second half. She scored 11 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter. Eight of those points came on shots under the basket, and she also hit a long three-pointer from the corner.

Mariah Smith, the team’s leading scorer, only had two points and did not start the game, since Gross started all the seniors for Senior Night.

“To win like this without Mariah contributig much is encouraging,” Gross said. “It’s nice to get some contributions from the bench. Kelli (Dunne) has given us some quality minutes over the past couple weeks, too. We will need that kind of bench production when we get into the Regionals and, hopefully, beyond that.”

Madi Green led Notre Dame (14-11, 3-3) with seven points.

Prior to the game, seniors Niuekirk, Nott, DesJardins, Dunne, Amber Metzger and Cryshawn Johnson were honored.

Richwoods had an enthusiastic fan section behind its bench. The fans, led by football player Dan Ardis, cheered loudly and got the attention of Gross.

“It was good to see a crowd like that,” he said. “I wish we could get that at all of our games.”

DOWN TWO SPOTS

After a loss to seventh-ranked Springfield Saturday, the Lady Knights dropped from No. 3 to No. 5 in the latest Class 3A poll.

“Turnovers really hurt us against Springfield,” Gross said. “We otshot them and played pretty well, but we just made some bad decisions with the basketball.”

‘WE’VE COME A LONG WAY’

Despite the blowout loss, Carrothers said he is pleased with  how his team is playing.

“We’re tied for second in the conference, and we have a strong claim to be the No. 2 seed in the Regional,” he said. “We beat Woodruff twice, and we’ve had some other quality wins. We have a great group of girls here, and they have worked very hard. They have come along way since last year, and I’m proud of what they have accomplished.”

Notre Dame finished 11-19 last year.

Regional seeding will be announced today. Richwoods, Peoria Notre Dame, Woodruff, Peoria Central and Dunlap are in the Dunlap Regional.

Richwoods will obviously get the No. 1 seed. After that, it’s anyone’s guess.

DUNLAP WINS AGAIN

Dunlap strengthened its case for the No. 2 seed in the Regional with a 41-40 win over Washington last night. Dunlap is now 17-4 overall and 6-3 in the Mid-Illini Conference.

Senior point guard Lauren Keegan led the Lady Eagles with 14 points.

Dunlap hosts Morton (16-7, 7-1) Friday at 7 p.m. Morton’s only conference loss came earlier in the season at home against Limetone. Morton clubbed East Peoria, 55-35, last night. All-State player Brooke Bisping had 25 points.