NORTH CRAWFORD - Hosting an opening round WIAA Regional Game for the first time in recent memory, the fourth-seeded North Crawford girls basketball team faced-off against the fifth-seeded Seneca Indians on Tuesday, Feb. 9.
Earlier in the season, the Trojans had a thrilling come-from-behind win against the Indians, and with the WIAA allowing more spectators during tournament play, the contest held an air of tension and excitement. Perhaps because each squad was missing their starting point guard due to injury, the game also developed a curious rhythm.
After using some aggressive full-court pressure to jump out to a quick 13-0 lead, the Trojans took a 19-5 advantage into halftime.
When Seneca rallied to pull within five points after the break, North Crawford closed the door with some tough baskets, extending the margin once again. Showing good ball movement over the final 10 minutes, the Trojans maintained control for a comfortable 36-22 victory over their conference rival.
Dominating the scorebook, freshman Elizabeth Stovey showcased her ability in the paint, recording a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Stovey also had three steals in the game.
Senior captain Kloee Chamberlain provided eight points and six rebounds. Sophomore guard Miranda Olson and freshman Sophie Ambrose each had a solid evening at the free throw line, chipping in five and three points respectively.
As she did in their first meeting, Faye Brassington hit a critical jump shot to steal the momentum - this time a three-pointer. She also nabbed four rebounds.
Run Ends at Wauzeka
Following their playoff win, the girls team traveled to Wauzeka on Friday, Feb. 12 to see if they could slow down the reigning conference champion and No. 1-seeded Hornets.
Battling to an 8-7 score after the first several minutes, the young Trojans provided some early sparks, but were unable to withstand the strong shooting of a veteran Hornet team averaging over 62 points per game.
Led by three-time all-conference player Maddy Reichmann, who finished the game with 16 points, Wauzeka-Steuben would pull away handily for a 59-20 second-round victory. It marks the third time in as many years the Hornets have advanced to the Regional Finals.
Stifled by taller post defenders for the majority of the night, Stovey still managed to lead the Trojan line-up with six points and seven rebounds. Brassington had five points, while Chamberlain and junior Sarah Hanson each provided three points.
Making the most of her minutes, senior Laura Eitsert banked home a three-pointer in her final game, much to the delight of the visiting crowd.
The semifinal loss did nothing to diminish the turnaround year by the North Crawford girls basketball program (2-9 conference, 4-13 overall) With four victories - including one in the postseason - the team was by far the most improved in the Ridge & Valley Conference. Quite the impressive rise for a varsity program that hadn't tasted a win for over two seasons prior to the 2020-21 campaign.
Like some other teams in the conference, the Trojans also faced a two-week quarantine. Occurring at the tail end of the season, the team had to cancel three games and was able to resume in-person practices only a couple of days before the start of the tournament."It was a tremendous season," said Trojan head coach Michael DiPadova. "Our players are really starting to support one another and buy into their development. To show that kind of growth and toughness through all of this year's challenges... it's inspiring. We've started to shift the culture to an exciting place."