After being swept in the regular season by Stillman Valley and trailing 25-14 in the third quarter of the 2A regional championship, it was beginning to look like that Rockford Lutheran’s Big Northern West title may have been a fluke.
That’s when sophomore Callie Rezin started a rally that Laura Rushing and Dawn Martin continued and Heather Baier capped off for a 46-42 Crusader win.
“This is important,” Lutheran coach Joni Carlson said. “It validates our conference championship.”
“We fed off each other’s energy and played with a lot of heart,” said Baier, who left the game midway through the rally after colliding with Stillman’s Amy Neville on a well-executed screen, but came back to make four straight free throws in the finals minutes to maintain Lutheran’s 4-point lead.
Rezin, who was scoreless in the first half, had eight third-quarter points and then hit a 3-pointer to tie the game 33-33 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
“Callie was a little shaky in the first half,” Carlson said. “For a sophomore, she stepped up huge in the second half.”
The Cardinals briefly regained the lead, but Rushing and Martin had back-to-back baskets followed by a Martin steal and assist to Rushing for a 39-34 lead.
“That gave us some comfort and leeway,” Martin said.
“We knew Lutheran was a team of runs,” SV coach Heather Alderks said. “We never thought we had a comfortable lead.”
In the first half, Sarah Nicholson, Cassie Glendenning and Val McKnight gave Lutheran fits with long-range shooting. Nicholson scored nine straight points to give the Cardinals its 25-14 lead. After that, baskets were harder to come by for Stillman as numerous drives to the lane came up empty.
“They hit the big 3s in the first half,” Carlson said. “The key for us was going to a full-court man-to-man in the second half.”
“They made the plays at the end and we didn’t” Alderks said. “I’m still proud of our girls and how hard they played.”
- Andy Colbert, rrstar.com