BENTON – Already worn out after rallying past East Dubuque in a semifinal game earlier in the night, the Benton/Shullsburg girls’ basketball team dug down deep and found the energy they needed to power their way past Galena and capture the championship title at the Bi-State Classic held at Benton High School on Saturday, Dec. 22.
With the tri-state area still digging out from the midweek blizzard on Friday, the two-day tournament scheduled for Friday and Saturday was changed to a one-day event, forcing each team to play back-to-back games on Saturday evening.
Benton/Shullsburg (8-0 overall) remained unbeaten on the season by outlasting the Warriors, 43-41, in a nail-biter of a semifinal game, then the hosts jumped ahead early and pulled away late to sink the Pirates, 52-41, in the nightcap to keep the first-place trophy at home.
“It was a ragged day all together, but it’s always better if it’s a ragged day and you can still pull out two victories. I’m pretty proud of the girls for doing that under the circumstances,” said Benton/Shullsburg head coach Nathan Russell.
Neither team got much of a leg up on the other in the Zephyr-Miners’ opener against East Dubuque. No more than five points separated the teams at any point in the game, while the lead swapped hands 12 times and they played to eight ties before the hosts took the lead for good at 37-36 with 4:19 to play on a basket by sophomore Jenna Droessler.
A pair of free throws by senior Stephanie Roberts gave the Zephyr-Miners a 42-38 cushion with 1:43 to play, but a 3-pointer by ED’s Michaela Marty brought the Warriors back within a point at 42-41 with just 1:27 to play.
Junior Sarah Redfearn pushed the hosts’ advantage to two with a free throw at the 1:08 mark, then she sealed the victory with a steal with six seconds remaining.
The Miner-Zephyrs bolted out to an early 9-4 lead after Lutes and Redfearn scored back-to-back baskets off ED turnovers, but the Warriors fought back to tie the score at nine all by the end of the first quarter and went on to outscore the hosts 14-9 in the second quarter to build up a 23-18 halftime lead.
“That’s the first time all year we’ve been at a deficit at halftime,” Russell noted. “It was good for us to experience it, and it was even better that we were able to adjust to that and come back to pull out the victory.”
The bad news was his Zephyr-Miners expended a lot of energy to secure the win over ED, but the good news was Galena– who had lost to Benton/Shullsburg by 19 points in their season opener back in November– had to spend a lot of energy as well to knock off Southwestern, 45-32, in the other semifinal game, meaning both teams would be running on fumes in the championship game.
“I was nervous coming into the game not only because we were tired but we may be a little over-confident since we had already beaten them once,” stated Russell. “We never got to the point where we were over-confident, but I was happy we got off to the start we did and that we were able to maintain that lead until the end.”
The Zephyr-Miners took control of the title match early on, breaking off on a 10-2 scoring run in the opening minutes to erase a 2-2 tie and take the lead for good.
The Pirates fought back within a point late in the second quarter, but the hosts ended the half with six unanswered points to grab a 33-26 halftime lead.
The lead see-sawed between six and 10 points the rest of the night as Redfearn poured in 11 of the team’s 19 second-half points to lock up the win and the title.
Redfearn finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots against the Pirates after registering a double-double against the Warriors with 13 points and 11 rebounds along with four assists, four steals and two blocks.
Lutes led the hosts with 16 points and four steals in the opener, and she added a team-high 14 points in the championship game.
Junior forward Melissa Brant chipped in with seven points, six rebounds and two assists against Galena. Sophomore center Emily Morrissey added six points and three rebounds in that game for the Zephyrs-Miners, who forced the Pirates to commit 34 turnovers to their own 17 turnovers.
“We tried to do a better job of pressuring the ball. Sometimes when we press, we turn it over ourselves after making the steal. We know what comes with the territory, but if we’re turning them over and we convert off some of them, then the press is worth it.”
In game one, Droessler tallied six points and three assists for the hosts, and Roberts pulled down six boards.
Brianna Bautsch poured in a game-high 17 points for Galena in the title game.
Kalyn Theill tallied 14 points in the opener to lead East Dubuque, who defeated Southwestern in the consolation game, 54-45, for third-place.
Next up, Benton/Shullsburg hosts Darlington in a non-conference game at Benton High School on Thursday, Jan. 3, at 7:30 p.m.
Benton/Shullsburg 52, Galena 41
Galena..…….. 12 14 5 10 – 41
Bent/Shulls… 19 14 6 13 – 52
Galena – Bautsch 17, Decker 10, Miller 5, Salgado 7, Sinagra 2. Totals – 13 14-17 41.
Benton/Shullsburg –Melissa Brant 7, Jenna Droessler 2, Blaire Lutes 16, Sarah Redfearn 15, Payton Bastian 4, Stephanie Roberts 2, Emily Morrissey 6. Totals – 19 15-24 52.
3-point goals – G 1 (Miller 1), B/S 1 (Lutes 1). Total fouls – G 21, B/S 14. Fouled out – G: Miller.
Benton/Shullsburg 43, East Dubuque 41
East Dubuque… 9 14 8 10 – 41
Bent/Shulls……. 9 9 14 11 – 43
East Dubuque – Barklow 5, Theill 14, Lange 1, Quinn 2, Marty 9, Hayes 5, Larson 3, Berryman 2. Totals – 14 9-11 41.
Benton/Shullsburg – Melissa Brant 2, Jenna Droessler 6, Blaire Lutes 14, Sarah Redfearn 13, Maggie Neis 3, Stephanie Roberts 2, Emily Morrissey 3. Totals – 16 8-15 43.
3-point goals – ED 4 (Barklow 1, Marty 1, Hayes 1, Larson 1), B/S 3 (Lutes 2, Neis 1). Total fouls – ED 18, B/S 13. Fouled out – ED: Berryman.