Tom Batters
Richwoods junior Susan Lynd, who scored 25 points, was one of the bright spots in a shocking home loss to Manual Jan. 12

Being the “glass half full” kind of guy that I am, I searched for something positive to write about after Richwoods lost a shocker to Manual, a team that has won only a handful of Mid-State 6 Conference games in recent years.

This was a puzzling loss for the Lady Knights, who played most of the game without junior leading scorer Mariah Smith (strep throat). Smith volunteered to enter the game with 2:53 left in the third quarter.

More on her later.

The Lady Knights committed too many turnovers, took too many bad shots (including an alarming number of air balls), missed a few easy layups, and did not play solid defense against Manual, which only had two legitimate scoring threats.

There. That’s out of the way.

Now I can get to those positive points.

I’ll start with junior forward Susan Lynd, who scored 25 points and hustled her tail off.

Lynd cut to the basket and got open for high percentage shots in the paint. She got to the foul line seven times and made all seven of her free throws. She waved her arms on defense, swatted plenty of shots away and deflected a few passes that resulted in Manual turnovers.

“Susan has worked really hard. It started in the summer and she has just kept working,” said Richwoods coach Todd Hursey. “She realized that it is much more fun if you put in the hard work and give it all you have.”

Junior guard Elise Tamplin was another bright spot.

Tamplin scored seven of her 10 points in the fourth quarter to help the Lady Knights rally from 20 points down. Her three-pointer with 23 seconds left made it a one-point game, but Richwoods never took the lead.

With 1:13 left, Richwoods railed by six points when Lynd stole the ball. Tamplin sprinted down the other end of the court to get a pass from Lynd, which resulted in a layup.

Sophomore guard Maggie Cunningham was also a bright spot. She only scored six points, but her toughness cannot be recorded in a boxscore.

Late in the game, a Manual player knocked Cunningham to the floor so hard that she actually bounced and skidded on the court (I’m not sure why an intentional foul was not called).

Cunningham got right back up with a fierce look on her face. Earlier in the game, when the referee called a “ticky tack” foul on her, Cunningham slapped her hands together and started to tell the referee exactly what she thought of the call before Hursey convinced her to let it go.

I liked seeing this toughness from Cunningham and Lynd.

It helped offset the complacency that plagued the Lady Knights during long stretches of that game.

The Lady Knights’ ability to charge back and erase a 20-point fourth quarter deficit was another bright spot.

They executed their pressure defense effectively and ran the fast break better than they have all season. They outscored the Lady Rams, 25-13, in the fourth quarter, but it was too-little-too-late.

The final score was 60-57.

With 2:53 left in the third quarter (Richwoods trailed 44-28), Smith approached Hursey and said, “let me go in.” Her return gave the Lady Knights a spark. From that point on, they outscored Manual, 29-14.

Smith scored eight of her 10 points, including two three-pointers that energized the restless crowd, in the fourth quarter.

“It was a morale booster,” Hursey said. “When she came in, we stepped it up and played much better.”

• Richwoods beat Lincoln, 50-32, Saturday. Cunningham scored 15 points.

ND trounces L-P

Senior Elle Bielfeldt scored 25 points to lead Peoria Notre Dame (13-8) to a 72-35 home victory over LaSalle-Peru Thursday night. The Irish beat Taylorville, 56-27, Saturday

Results of last night’s key games between Richwoods and Peoria Central and Notre Dame and Woodruff were not available (our press deadline is on Monday).

So, without having those results, my forecast of Tuesday’s Richwoods-Notre Dame rematch is uncertain.

Did Richwoods fully recover from the Manual loss? Are the Irish ready to take hold of one of the top two spots in the conference?

As of right now, I would still give the edge to Richwoods, even though the Irish almost knocked off the Lady Knights at Richwoods a few weeks ago.

If Smith is healthy, and Cunningham, Tamplin and Lynd continue to improve, Richwoods is still a very good team. If the Lady Knights use the press defense the way they did in the fourth quarter against Manual, look out. There are not many teams that can score against it.

Notre Dame junior guards Kristin Itschner and Katie Schuler can break a press as good as anybody.

Bielfeldt is playing like a first-team all-conference player, and the Irish are getting solid contributions from their role players.

Notre Dame is playing better than Richwoods right now. But, we still have not seen the best of Richwoods. If the Lady Knights get it together, they are still the best team in the conference.

They are running out of time, though. They need to get some problems fixed quickly.

Next week at this time, I might start to look at their glass as “half empty,” instead of “half full.”

Tuesday’s game will say a lot. Stay tuned.

‘Super sophomore‘

I don’t hand out many awards during the season, but it’s about time to give an award to Dunlap sophomore point guard Lexi Hobbs.

I’ll give her the “Super Sophomore of the Year Award.”

Hobbs, who scored 12 points in 46-36 loss at Limestone last week, stepped in nicely when point guard Alissa Recker suffered a season-ending ACL injury early in the season.

Hobbs is cool and confident when running the offense. She can handle the ball, drive to the basket and hit outside shots.

She will be fun to watch over the next couple years, especially since she has a promising group of fellow sophomores, led by Jamie Nichting and Haley Meeks, around her.

• Dunlap lost at Morton, 44-42, Friday to fall to 2-5 in the Mid-Illini Conference.

Regional assignments

The following teams have been assigned to the Woodruff Regional: Richwoods, Notre Dame, Peoria Central, Woodruff, Washington and East Peoria. The winner of the Regional will advance to the LaSalle Sectional, which feeds into the Streator Supersectional.

The Regional presents some interesting possible games. Personally, I would like to see a Washington-Notre Dame rematch. Washington beat Notre Dame, 47-44, at Notre Dame Dec. 20.

• Dunlap will play in the Metamora Regional, which includes LaSalle-Peru, Metamora, Pontiac and Streator. The winner of that Regional also advances to the LaSalle Sectional.

Dates and times of the Regional and Sectional games will be published soon.