After the first day of the Lady Bruins Christmas Classic on Dec. 22, Mendota girls basketball coach Kevin Geldon wasn’t sure his team would have a chance to repeat as tournament champion.
A week later, the Lady Trojans took control of the championship game just before halftime and went on to beat Fieldcrest 61-41.
“The way we started the tournament, I didn’t think we’d be in this game,” Geldon said. “We turned it around. I think we’re starting to understand what it takes to consistently perform at a high level. We came out (Saturday) with a great team win. Lots of people contributed. It means a lot (to repeat).”
The Lady Trojans started strong Saturday as they jumped out to a 10-3 lead with 3:03 left in the first quarter.
But a 3-pointer by Haley Ruestman, back-to-back baskets by Jayla Gensler and a pair of free throws by Tessa Holland gave the Lady Knights a 14-12 lead after the first quarter.
Fieldcrest continued the run into the second quarter as it built a 20-15 lead with 4:41 left in the first half.
“I thought we came out and played hard,” Fieldcrest coach Ron Kreiser said. “We kept taking it to them. They were only getting one shot and we would go the other way.”
After a drive by Gensler gave the Lady Knights the 20-15 lead, Mendota began to take over.
A drive to the basket by Abby Bromenschenkel started a 13-0 run to close the first half that included eight points by Amy Devitt — six on putbacks — as the Lady Trojans took a 28-20 lead into the break.
“We just had to get our minds back on track where we needed to be for mental toughness and know we could execute and finish the game the way we wanted,” Devitt said.
The Lady Trojans stayed in control throughout the second half using their superior size. Fieldcrest pulled within five points at 32-27 with 5:35 left in the third quarter, but that’s as close as the Lady Knights came.
Devitt finished with a game-high 20 points and six rebounds, Brooke Stallings scored 13 points — 12 in the second half — and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and Abby Bromenschenkel added 12 points.
Ally Bromenschenkel completed Mendota’s foursome of double-digit scorers with 13 points.
“Whenever we have an advantage in size, we like to try to push it in more and see what we can do,” Devitt said. “We just did a really good job moving the ball. It was a really good effort by everybody.”
The Lady Trojans also dominated the glass as they outrebounded Fieldcrest 41-24.
“We knew the boards were going to be the key and our stats showed they outrebounded us by 16-18 boards, and you’re not going to beat anybody when you’re giving up that many boards,” Kreiser said. “I thought we did a pretty good job to start, but they just overtook us. We didn’t do a good enough job boxing out and they just kept pounding it.”
Mendota (15-1) also played strong defensively as it held Ruestman to 13 points and Holland to nine.
“I think we just got back to understanding in the half court what we’ve always worked on,” Geldon said. “It still wasn’t where we needed to be, but we have half a season to work on that and take it to the next level. But we did do a nice job of helping and talking to each other, and we just kind of worked to keep them out of the paint and make them make contested shots. And some of their shots didn’t fall, which helped out, too.”
The Lady Knights (11-4) were hurt by foul trouble for Holland, who had three fouls with 1:43 left in the second quarter and four with 2:17 left in the third.
“That just really tied our hands because she’s averaging almost 12 boards a game,” Kreiser said. “So if we have her where she has to be careful and has to kind of play with her hands tied, it hurts our game because everyone else is used to her controlling the boards, and we have to do a better job of helping her.”
Eureka 43, St. Bede 25
Neither team got its offense going in the first quarter as the Lady Bruins led 3-2.
After that, Eureka used its pressure defense to keep St. Bede’s offense down while sparking its own.
The Lady Hornets scored 18 points in the second quarter to take a 20-10 halftime lead before extending their advantage to 32-17 after three quarters.
“We had too many turnovers,” St. Bede coach Tom McGunnigal said. “Their pressure got to us. We told the girls we have to communicate better. We’ve been talking about communication on both ends of the floor. We have to be able to communicate to calm people and get people into place. That’s where we rely on senior leadership to come through, especially with the younger girls out there facing much bigger girls than they’ve seen. We had too many easy turnovers and it led to easy baskets.”
Raley Mauck led the Lady Bruins with eight points.
Kewanee 54, LaMoille-Ohio 43
The Lady Lions rallied from a 26-19 halftime deficit to tie the game after three quarters, but were outscored 24-13 in the final eight minutes.
Shiela Browning led L-O with 13 points, while Vanessa Martinez had 11 points and 16 rebounds.
Princeton 34, Henry 28
The Tigresses couldn’t get their offense going for three quarters but got it going in the final eight minutes.
Princeton trailed 21-13 after three quarters before scoring 21 points in the fourth — led by 14 points by Zoe Mead — to pull out the victory.
Mead finished with 17 points, while Michaela Strom added eight.
Emma Clusky scored 18 points to lead Henry.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.