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Lady Bruins’ roller-coaster ride comes to an end

SOMONAUK — The St. Bede Lady Bruins had a tough matchup going into Thursday night’s sectional against the Byron Lady Tigers. They played well in the first half. But things got away from them in the third quarter, and Byron went on to win the game by a wide margin 58-38.

“Well, if you would have told me yesterday it would be a three-point game at half time, I would have told you I’d take that. I’d say that’s what we wanted, a first half in the 20s. That’s a credit to the girls. They came out and executed very well,” Bruins’ coach Tom McGunnigal said.

“They had a lot of energy and patience. They hit shots and rebounded well. Byron put a little bit of a stretch on us in the third quarter when Mo Dean went out. Those two girls inside, Ellie Lehne and Sophie Reecher, are tough, especially Reecher. She really wanted it and willed the ball in. They hit some big threes when they were open. You kind of pick your poison there. Byron is a very good team. I fully expect to see them at ISU next weekend.”

McGunnigal said making it this far is really a great accomplishment.

“It was a roller coaster. I look at it like this. You start the season with high expectations, and as the days go by, you’re not reaching those expectations. We were struggling through no fault of the girls. We had injuries, sickness, people in and out. But ultimately the team that they are came out in the postseason,” he said.

The game’s leading scorer was Byron’s Sophie Reecher, a University of Toledo recruit, with 20 points. Mo Dean led the Bruins with 15 points.

As advertised, St. Bede came out of the gate fast, racing to a quick 5-2 lead as Laura Sickley hit a three. But, Byron went on a 9-1 run at the end of the quarter giving it a nine-point lead. Sickley took the final shot of the quarter — about four feet across the half court line, and banked it in. This put the quarter’s final score at 15-9 Byron.

In the second quarter, Dean was able to convert a traditional three-point play. Dean then hit another inside shot, and Lydia Stariha drove the lane on an ensuing possession to cut the Bruins’ deficit to one, 17-16.

The last three minutes of the half were tough for both teams on offense. Both Dean and Reecher sat a bit. At halftime, Byron was winning 23-20.

The third quarter is when things got out of hand for St. Bede. Although Dean began the period with a block, a rebound and a score — the length of the 6-3 Reecher was taking its toll. Things began to unravel in the last three minutes of the quarter, and by the time it was over, Byron had a 38-26 lead.

In the fourth quarter, Byron widened its lead. The ball was going in when they shot it. At one point, Mallorie Getzelman threw up a circus shot from behind the board with her stomach parallel to the floor, and it went right in.

St. Bede was not shooting bad either. They were turning the ball over, though.

“We knew St. Bede was going to come out and play hard. We expected that. We knew it was going to be a dogfight for a while,” said Byron coach Eric Yerly, a 1998 Hall graduate. “We just stuck to the game plan and kept the pressure up, so we could wear them down, so hopefully those shots don’t fall in the second half. That’s kind of what happened.

“Sophie Reecher got in foul trouble (in the first half). We were up 5, 6 or 7 points, so we left her on the bench because we didn’t want her to get her third foul. We don’t score as much when she is not in. But once she came back in the second half, she stayed inside and played well.

“Give Tom McGunnigal credit; he had his kids ready to go,” Yerly said.

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