SPRING VALLEY – The St. Bede Lady Bruins started strong and never looked back in a 61-26 victory over the Princeton Tigresses on Senior Night Thursday at the Academy.
The Lady Bruins (15-15, 4-0 NCIC) scored the first 12 points of the game and built a 30-point halftime lead behind 16 points from senior center Mo Dean, who finished with a game-high 18 points on an efficient 9 of 11 from the field.
“It means the world to me,” said Dean about winning on Senior Night. “I’ve been playing here for four years. To get a win in our last home game is unbelievable.”
Dean had a lot of help from her teammates too. The Bruins knocked down six three-pointers in the game, and all nine girls who saw action reached the scoring column.
“We got (Dean) going on the inside and opened up some things on the outside,” said St. Bede coach Tom McGunnigal. “I was very happy with our outside shooting. Our outside shot selection was good. It was a good night all around.”
With the win, the Lady Bruins clinched the final NCIC championship with the conference officially folding at the end of the school year. St. Bede and PHS will both be joining the Three Rivers Conference next year.
Similar to their first meeting with Princeton at Prouty Gym three weeks ago, the Lady Bruins started the first quarter on fire, and their defensive pressure forced double digit turnovers.
Laura Sickley hit two three-pointers in the opening quarter, including one to start the game, and Dean made all four of her shots inside as St. Bede opened up a 12-0 lead in the first four minutes and extended the advantage to 23-4 by quarter’s end.
The lead grew to 36-6 by halftime as the Tigresses could only manage two Makenzey Wilson free-throws in the second quarter. Dean scored eight more points inside, despite Princeton’s efforts to bring a help side defender every time she touched it in the post.
“(Dean) uses her strength to her advantage and knows how to get open,” said Princeton coach Kevin Hieronymus. “When she gets the ball in her hands, it is almost automatic.”
To Princeton’s credit they didn’t give up in the second half, despite the lopsided score. And after a tough first half, Wilson bounced back and scored 15 points in the second half to finish with a season-high 17 points in the game.
“I keep saying this, but our girls keep battling out there when the score is not the best,” said Hieronymus. “They keep battling and going to the floor for loose balls.”
In all, St. Bede shot just under 50 percent from the field in the game, making 25 of 54 shots. Sickley had nine points as did senior Haley Dzierzynski, who had two nice drives to the hoop in the second half. Whitley Funfsinn added seven points in her last game of her career at home.
McGunnigal said his seniors have been great leaders this season.
“They are passing on their own traditions and their own legacies to the girls that are coming up from behind,” he said. “I knew when I chose them as captains they were going to be leaders. They have not disappointed me one bit. They are awesome. They are going to get this team ready to go in the postseason.”
Both St. Bede and Princeton will start postseason play in the Hall regional this week. St. Bede will play the winner of Bureau Valley and Hall on Tuesday. Princeton takes on Ottawa Marquette in the nightcap on Tuesday.
* St. Bede won the sophomore contest 34-29. Jordan Brolley led the Lady Bruins with eight points. Abby Jaques was Princeton’s high scorer with 10.
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