PERU — Seeking their first regional crown since 2013, the No. 5 seed St. Bede Lady Bruins went for broke and hit the ground running on their home floor Thursday night.
Not only did they score the first 11 points of the game, but also held the No. 2 seeded Lady Panthers to just two points through the first nine minutes of action. Before PC scored again, SBA was in front 17-2 and were well on their way to a 40-19 victory over PC in Abbot Vincent Gymnasium.
“It’s been a while,” said a smiling St. Bede coach Tom McGunnigal, glancing up at a banner listing all of the girls regional crowns to verify when the last one was. “We were aggressive defensively and on the boards, Christine (Senica), Lia (Bosnich) and Ryan (Stoudt) cleaning all of that up. There was just a great understanding of (PC’s) offense and what they do and the girls just responded on the court.
“Obviously, it’s great to come out with a 14-2 quarter. There’s nothing for calming the nerves like scoring a couple of buckets and that (quarter) took some of the wind out of their sails.
“But all game long, defense was it. I told the girls as we were leaving the lockerroom before the game that defense was going to win this for us and it certainly did.”
St. Bede’s flowing zone defense stepped into enough passing lanes to for 19 turnovers and disrupted their foe’s rhythm so thoroughly that the Lady Panthers managed to sink just 5 of 35 shots (14.2 percent) from the field on the night.
A 42-29 advantage on the boards didn’t hurt any, either, as the Lady Bruins with now a 10-24 record punched their ticket to the Putnam County Sectional next week.
There, at 6 p.m. Monday, it will face Aurora Christian, which defeated Indian Creek 74-31 for the title at the Elgin Harvest Christian Regional.
The game did not have a single double-digit scorer, but there were standout performances, including a 9-point, 10-rebound effort by Christine Senica. The 5-9 senior twice connected on drives after taking the ball at the high post to lead that initial 11-0 outburst.
Meanwhile, PC’s chilly effort was already underway with missing their first six tries and turning the ball mover four times in the first six minutes.
But in the second, PC tightened up its defense and began putting up some fight at the scoring end, stringing together eight straight points to make it a game at 17-10 on a toss by Olivia Lamis with 51.4 seconds showing.
However, in the last 10 seconds, SBA sophomore Renn Ludford passed into Senica in the lane, but finding nothing there, she passed back to Ludford and her 3-pointer at the horn widened the gap to 22-10 at the break.
That was Putnam County’s best chance to stay close. The cold shooting returned (1-for-16 in the latter two periods) and some balanced Bedans scoring made the game a runaway. Ludford matched Senica’s nine points, while Lamis had six points and Caitlyn Cioni five to pace the Panthers.
“We were definitely not ourselves tonight,” said Lady Panthers coach Jared Sale.
“Obviously it was pretty much from the get-go. We knew they were going to come out fired up — home floor, big crowd, at 9-24 with nothing to lose — so we talked about weathering that storm in the first two or three minutes of the game. If they get a couple of buckets, that’s fine, we’re OK, but we just couldn’t find a way to stop that storm. We just never got it weathered.
“Even though they’d dominated to that point, I felt if we could get it under 10 at halftime, we’d be in it, but Ludford hits that shot right before the half. We stop that, maybe it’s a little different in the second half. Unfortunately for us, she made it.”