By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s girls’ basketball team was strong in the second half scoring 41 of their 58 points in the final 16 minutes of the contest, but a slow start from the Lady Warriors was too much to overcome as they fell for just the fifth time all year 66-58 at Champaign Central. The Warriors trailed by as many as 23 points at one time in the game but battled back behind strong offensive efforts from Emma Henderson and Cassie Russo to within in three of the lead with 9 seconds left in the contest.
A big and athletic Maroons’ team forced issues in the passing lanes and on the defensive end. Central fed off Warrior miscues running out to an 11-5 lead after the first 8 minutes of action. The Maroons continued to disrupt Tuscola’s offense, scoring the first 11 of the second frame extending their lead to 22-5. Tuscola broke their scoring draught with bucket down low from Russo to stop the bleeding. The early damage was done allowing Central to take a 29-15 lead into the break.
Central scored nine of the first 11 of the second half, then it was Tuscola’s defense that caused the problems as the Maroons started to wear down. Natalie Bates and Alexis Koester each found their way to a pair of steals in the waning minutes of the third period. Bates finished off one of them on the offensive side and found Russo down low for a bucket as Tuscola sliced into the lead ending the frame down 14, 55-41.
Coach K. sped up Tuscola’s offense leaning on Russo down low, Henderson on the outside, and Bates in transition, posting a 10-2 run to open the frame. Russo had three buckets during the span en route to a team high 21 points on 10 of 19 from the floor. Lexi Russo had an answer as well with a bucket and a free throw late allowing Tuscola to cut it to three 61-58. Henderson had a good look in the corner to tie the game, but a three ball rimmed out with just 9 seconds to go, forcing the Warriors to foul allowing Central to seal the deal on the win at the line.
“The tough part to swallow was our free throw percentage,” stated coach Kohlbecker. “We are usually strong there, and we made just 6 of 21 in the game.”
Tuscola found its way to the line early in both halves only to come up short missing their first 11 shots at the charity stripe. Kohlbecker’s crew were beasts on the boards however grabbing 38 rebounds in the game including a dominating 21 on the offensive end. C. Russo topped the list rounding off a double-double garnering 12 rebounds, while Lexie and Henderson each hauled in eight rebounds.