Rossville eliminated from sectional: Hornets cut deficit in half from Feb. 3 game; Trojans advance
BY JIMMY GILLISPIE firstname.lastname@example.org
ROSSVILLE – Despite his team being eliminated from the Class A Sectional 54 tournament, Michael Gick had no regrets about their effort Tuesday night.
Gick’s Rossville girls’ basketball team faced a Tri-Central squad that defeated the Hornets 72-26 on Feb. 3, so the task ahead Tuesday was a difficult one. The Hornets stayed within seven points at halftime, but the Trojans were too much in the second half as they won 64-43.
“That team beat us by 46 a week ago,” Gick said. “We knew they would have a similar game plan, but our goal was to come out and play a little different. We played a pretty vanilla game against them at the end of the season. We put in our extended zone, which really got after their shooters really well, and they still did a nice job of knocking shots down with girls in their face.
“We wanted to limit our turnovers because we’ve been a team that’s turned it over an average of 28 times,” he added. “I don’t know what it ended up being, but we had nine at halftime. I challenged them to do that. I challenged them to rebound, get after loose balls and they did that. I challenged them to get easy looks on offense and we got easy looks. Some fell for us and some didn’t.”
The Hornets committed only 20 on Tuesday night, which ties for the second-fewest in a game this season. Tri-Central scored 19 points off of those turnovers.
Rossville shot 27.6 percent (16-of-58) from the field while Tri-Central shot 43.5 percent (27-of-62), including 57 percent (16-of-28) in the second half.
Junior Breanna Wainscott and freshman Keely Criswell both scored in double figures. Wainscott scored 12 points after sinking a pair of three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Criswell scored 11 points for the Hornets.
“First game of the year, we were probably a 1.5 or 2, but tonight we were a 7.5 or 8,” Gick said. “That’s a huge improvement over the season. This team has a lot of heart and fire. Next year, we take step number two. This year was step number one – the building blocks of the program.”
Rossville kept the game close during the first half. Senior Megan Longnecker scored a layup early to give Rossville a 3-2 lead. However, the Hornets scored only one point during the final six minutes of the quarter as TC built an 11-4 lead.
TC increased the lead to 10 three times during the second quarter, but Rossville answered each time with a basket. Criswell scored nine points in the quarter. TC led by seven, 24-17, at the break.
“One big problem tonight was one of our best defenders and best scrappers, Syndey Hrdlicka, has had some medical issues and she got dizzy in the first minute of the game,” Gick said. “They declared her medically unable to play the rest of the game. Our trainer made the right call.
“We had to play up-temp, create turnovers and wreak havoc with six girls,” he added. “My gosh, I think they gave me everything they had.”
The Trojans came out of the locker room with a quick, 6-0 spurt in 1:40. Rossville junior Brooke Hughes hit a three and sophomore Taylor Zink sank two free throws a minute later to cut the lead back to 10. However, the Trojans used another 6-0 run to break the game back open. The Trojans took an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter, nearly putting the game away.
“(Tri-Central) made a nice 6-0 run to start the second half,” Gick said. “They extended that out to 13, but I thought we did a nice job of making a run back and trying to keep that thing within striking distance.”
Rossville continued fighting and scrapping during the final eight minutes. Rossville began the quarter with a 5-0 run before TC used a 10-0 spurt to lock up the victory. Wainscott drained two threes during the final four minutes.
With the game all but over, both teams emptied the benches for their younger players. Gick left Longnecker in the game during the final seconds. She drained a mid-range jumper seconds before the buzzer to score the final bucket of the game.
“That was awesome,” Gick said. “Last night, I let them all take their dream shot that’s going to win the sectional. She took that last night and hit it at the buzzer. We drew it up again tonight and I said, ‘It’s not going to be for the win, but I want you to hit your dream shot.’ She nailed it. What a cool ending to her career.”
Rossville finished the season 1-18, but Gick admitted it was one of his most enjoyable seasons as a coach.
“Some people have told me, ‘What a long season, coach,’” Gick said. “I just laugh at them, because they have no idea how this team has improved and how this team has responded time after time at practice. They gave me everything they had and played like a 20-0 team in practice. That just doesn’t happen. That takes a special team.”
He also thanked his staff for an excellent job this winter.
“Before the season, I said I was going to step back a bit and trust my coaches,” Gick said. “I would be remised if I didn’t say how great of a job they did. I turned over all of my substituting to Jason Deboy. He’d run it by me but that took a lot of trust for me to have an assistant coach do that and he did a phenomenal job of that. Katie (Deboy), our JV coach, handles all of the post play. I oversee things but I trust her. Then having a veteran like Tom Hedde come in with the knowledge and love he has for the game. I couldn’t ask for a stronger staff.”