Metamora girls basketball spotlight

Tom Batters
Ally Friday

Ally Friday took a sharp elbow to the ribs (but no foul was called) and crashed to the hardwood court.

Two Dunlap players tumbled on top of her.

She got right back up, gave the referee a look as if to say, “call the foul!,” ran the length of the floor, and grabbed a defensive rebound.

Friday, a 5’10” senior forward, scored eight points in the fourth quarter to help keep the Redbirds alive in a 59-53 loss to Dunlap Dec. 13.

She wasn’t the only one who fought hard to keep Metamora in the game.

Senior guard Cori Maloney hit a couple big shots, including a three-pointer that got Metamora within three points. Sophomore guard Erica Phillips made two clutch free throws. Senior guard Paige Garber wrestled away an offensive rebound and hit a shot off the glass. Sophomore Kyler Samp scored in the paint against a tough, physical Dunlap defense.

Friday has stepped up since senior Kelsey Nafziger, the team’s lone returning starter, quit the team.

Nafziger was supposed to be the main post player for the Redbirds. Now, Friday will take on much of that role, which means she will take a pounding in the paint, as she did against Dunlap.

“She’s a competitor and a winner,” coach Steve Gorrell said. “She just wants to win. I loved her effort tonight. She’s getting better every game.”

Senior Shelby Sutherland helped in the paint, too. She scored four points underneath in the first quarter against Dunlap.

‘I like the effort...’

Effort was not the problem against Dunlap, Gorrell said.

Decision making was.

“We played hard, but we didn’t play very smart,” he said. “We made some mental mistakes.”

Gorrell, in his first season after taking over for Kathy Wainman, could only drop his shoulders in frustration as Dunlap guard Lexi Hobbs stole the ball and drove the length of the court for an open layup as time expired.

“That’s the type of mistake that you can’t make late in a game,” he said.

The Redbirds trailed, 43-35, at the end of the third quarter, but they cut Dunlap’s lead to three points when Maloney hit a three-pointer with :14 left to make it 54-51.

The Redbirds fouled Brianna Flinn to stop the clock. Flinn made one of two free throws to pad the Eagles lead to four points (55-51). After a Metamora turnover, Hobbs was fouled. She made one of two free throws to make it 56-51 with 33 seconds left.

Garber scored in the paint after grabbing a hard-fought offensive rebound to make it 56-53 and Metamora called a timeout with 16 seconds left.

Dunlap guard Haley Meeks (10 points) made one of two free throws to make it 57-53 with 12 seconds left.

Hobbs came up with a steal and drove the length of the court for an open layup as time expired.

“We’re not quitters. We played hard until the end,” Gorrell said. “But, we need to make better decisions. We have a lot of seniors on this team, but they don’t have as much experience as some of the players did last year. I’ll give them some more time, but we don’t have much time left. We need to get those mistakes corrected. We have some big games coming up. We’re going to have to play smarter, if we’re going to win.”

Maloney finished with a team-high 14 points.

“She (Maloney) never quits. She wants to win,” Gorrell said. “She’s so versatile. She can take the point guard spot if Ali (Helton) is out. She hit some key shots for us tonight. It’s good to have her back. We need her.”

Maloney missed the first couple games for an undisclosed reason. Gorrell only said that she was “not allowed to play” in those games.

As for Nafziger, Gorrell said, “All I can say is that she quit. It was her decision to leave the team.”

Garber is another important player, although she is not likely to score many points.

“She’s a leader out there,” Gorrell said. “Even if she doesn’t score, she helps us in a lot of ways.”

Helton, who scored 18 points in a 59-37 win over Pekin Saturday, is as tough as they get at the point guard position.

Jolie Zwick, Samp and Phillips, all sophomores, will see plenty of playing time the rest of the season, Gorrell said.

Phillips hit two three-pointers and made two free throws in the fourth quarter. Samp, who hit the game-winner against East Peoria and had a solid game against Richwoods last week, made a key basket in the paint in the fourth quarter.

“They are young, but they’re getting better,” Gorrell said. “Everybody is getting better, but we’re just not there yet.”