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STERLING — Before the season began there was question about whether or not the Mendota girls basketball team could be a player in its move up to Class 3A.
A 19-9 regular season answered the question with a resounding yes and set up a matchup against Dixon in the first game of the Sterling Regional.
Each team held a lead for a lengthy time period Monday, but when the clock hit triple zeros, the No. 5-seeded Duchesses were on top 51-45.
“They did a nice job of executing their game plan and doing what they wanted to do,” Mendota coach Kevin Geldon said. “They had a size disadvantage and they did a good job being really physical, pushing us out of the spots where we wanted to catch it and making it difficult all night. They never stopped with that.”
The No. 4-seeded Lady Trojans battled two forces in the beginning quarter — postseason jitters and a quick, aggressive Dixon defense composed of four guards.
Mendota missed uncontested layups, opportunities at the charity stripe and the recipient of passes, while the Duchesses kept the Lady Trojans’ go-to options — sophomores Amy Devitt, Ally Bromenschenkel and Abby Bromenschenkel — fronted in the paint.
After the first quarter, Geldon’s squad was behind 20-10.
“I think we came out with some nerves and we missed some easy shots early on — some layups. We missed our first six free throws,” Geldon said. “Those are things we put ourselves in a bad situation, came out with a lack of energy or will to win.”
The second quarter was different.
Mendota’s passes were spot on, both Bromenschenkels and Devitt were able to get to the basket and the defense was able to keep a body on Dixon junior guard Brooke Bailey, who hit three of her game’s five 3-pointers in the first quarter.
Mendota held Dixon to three points — all free throws — in the second quarter while scoring 16 of its own to take a 26-23 lead into halftime.
Dixon rallied to take a 35-30 lead with two minutes left in the third behind Bailey’s shooting and strong defense.
The Duchesses outscored Mendota 15-6 in the third.
“We just played the defense we normally play. We’re small and so we front the post and we try to help on the backside,” Dixon coach Luke Ravin said.
The Lady Trojans responded with the first three baskets of the fourth to tie the game at 38-38.
Devitt gave Mendota its last lead at 42-41 on a pair of free throws with 3:24 left.
The Duchesses then took a one-point lead with an uncontested Bailey layup and iced the game by making free throws. Dixon shot 20-of-28 from the charity stripe while the Lady Trojans went 11-of-20.
Devitt led the Lady Trojans with 17 points and had eight rebounds, and Bailey scored a game-high 29 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the 3-point line.
Geldon said his team’s first year in Class 3A was a tune up for next year as four of his five starters will be back and the seniors who are leaving left an impression on the younger players.
“The seniors are high character girls and they’ve never quit. There are only three of them left and they stuck it out and fought through a lot,” Geldon said. “The younger girls coming up are the same way. I think they have that never say die, never quit (attitude). You saw that tonight.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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