EAST DUBUQUE – The saying goes that defense wins championships; and, thanks to a stellar defensive effort that matched a brilliant offensive performance, the Benton/Shullsburg girls’ basketball team was able to bring home the championship title from the 2011 Bi-State Tournament hosted by East Dubuque High School from Dec. 15-17.
The Zephyrs-Miners (4-2 overall) opened their weekend by rolling over Galena, 56-34, in a semifinal contest on Friday night, and they came right back to whip up on the Southwestern Wildcats, 60-45, in the championship game on Saturday to claim the title at the tournament.
“We really grew as a team over this tournament. The girls have been getting along, but this weekend showed that they are starting to trust each other and finding their role on the team,” stated Benton/Shullsburg head coach Nathan Russell. “For the first time all year, our defense showed up to really play.”
The Zephyr-Miners faced a tough task in the final against the Wildcats (3-4) and their star center Katelynn Hoppman, who had 29 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shot in Southwestern’s 49-47 win over host East Dubuque in the opening game on Thursday night.
Coach Russell’s crew did all they could to limit Hoppman’s impact on the offensive end, “holding” her to just 15 points in the game– nine below her season average– while keeping her away from offensive rebounds and off the foul line.
In Thursday’s win, Hoppman had six offensive boards and was 9-for-10 on free throws. On Saturday, she had just two offensive rebounds– and none until the fourth quarter– while getting to the line just three times.
“Blaire Lutes and Jenna Droessler did a fantastic job on Katelynn, with really good help from their teammates. We really got after it deflecting and tipping passes,” Russell noted. “Katelynn is probably the single best player we will face this year and our girls really stepped up to the challenge.”
The Zephyrs-Miners outscored the Wildcats in every quarter en route to the win. They led 13-10 after one quarter of play and 26-19 at halftime, but it was a 21-14 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter that sealed the outcome in their favor.
The co-op outscored their opponents in all eight quarters during the tournament.
Sophomore forward Sarah Redfearn poured in a game-high 24 points to go along with eight rebounds and six steals to lead the Zephyr-Miners, while Lutes added 15 points, eight assists and five steals in a winning effort.
Senior center Molly Blackbourn tallied nine points and 13 rebounds for B/S, and Haley Morrissey netted five points on the day.
Hoppman finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks on her way to her sixth double-double of the season.
The Zephyr-Miners advanced to the finals of the tournament by burying eight 3-point baskets on the way to a 56-34 victory over the Galena Pirates.
“We shot the ball well (against Galena) and our effort was solid through the entire game,” said Coach Russell, who also led the co-op over the Pirates, 59-48, in their season opener. “When we played them earlier in the year we let up in the fourth quarter. That didn’t happen tonight.”
Redfearn went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc on her way to 19 points, and she registered six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot for a big all-around night.
Lutes also dropped in three treys to finish with 19 points, and she led the team with seven assists.
Emma Neis added five points for B/S, while Blackbourn pulled down six boards, Morrissey dished out four assists and Stephanie Roberts tallied four steals in the victory.
“We had really good performances this weekend from a lot of players. Blaire and Sarah filled up the stat sheet not only with points, but in all areas. We also had some really good results that don’t show up including tips, charges taken and solid help defense,” Russell said. “The ladies, I believe, are starting to really understand what we are capable of and we should see continued improvement here on out.”
Benton/Shullsburg has a key Six Rivers West game at Highland on Thursday, Dec. 22.
Southwestern… 10 9 12 14 - 45
Bent/Shulls…… 13 13 13 21 - 60
Leading Scorers: Sarah Redfearn 24, Blaire Lutes 15, Molly Blackbourn 9, Haley Morrissey 5, Stephanie Roberts 4, Emma Neis 2, Alyssa Lesser 1.
Galena…...…. 8 7 11 8 - 34
Bent/Shulls… 14 10 14 18 - 56
Leading Scorers: Blaire Lutes 19, Sarah Redfearn 19, Emma Neis 5, Haley Morrissey 4, Stephanie Roberts 3, Jenna Droessler 3, Holly Rennert 2, Molly Blackbourn 1.