Lack of rebounding, finishing proves costly to Raiders

Photos by Nic Antaya/The Herald
Southridge's Monica Steckler loses control of the ball during Tuesday's game against Evansville Mater Dei in Huntingburg. Southridge gave the Class 2A No. 8 Wildcats a strong fight, but the Raiders fell 41-34 at home. For more photos from the game, click here.

BY JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

HUNTINGBURG — The Southridge girls basketball team is not off to the start it would like to have. Over the first four games, the Raiders have alternated between two close losses and two blowouts, and Tuesday night added another game to the “close but not quite” column as the Raiders fell 41-34 to the Evansville Mater Dei Wildcats.

Southridge (0-5, 0-0) coach Steve Rust liked the way his team played and battled Mater Dei (2-0, 0-0) throughout the game, but he identified the Raiders' lack of offensive rebounding as the factor that kept them from achieving control of the game at critical points when the score was close or tied.

“We played a real good game other than rebounding. We gave up 16 offensive rebounds,” Rust said. “We shot the ball better, we had 12 turnovers. I thought we executed pretty well on both ends of the floor, other than the rebounding.”

Mater Dei was able to start things quickly with a layup off of the opening tip, and a three-pointer from senior guard Hannah Winiger, which gave the Wildcats a 5-1 lead. Southridge was trying to establish a driving scoring presence in the paint early on, but had trouble getting off of the defenders early on. And on instances when they did split the defense, the Raiders weren’t able to finish at the rim.

Any points they were able to earn came from the free throw line, that is until freshman forward Myah Montgomery was able to clean up one of her missed attempts and make good on her put back with about two-and-a-half minutes left in the first quarter. Sophomore guard Monica Steckler had four of her seven points in the first quarter, and senior guard Mady Neukam was able to connect on 3-of-4 of her attempts from the stripe. But the threes from Winiger and sophomore guards Taylor Gerth and Anna Boring proved to be the difference as Mater Dei finished the first quarter with a 15-9 lead.

Southridge's Mady Neukam searches for an open teammate during the Raiders' loss on Tuesday. Neukam finished with six points in the defeat, while Myah Montgomery led all Southridge scorers with 17 points. For more photos from the game, click here.

In the second stanza, Southridge made some adjustments in its defensive schemes to deny the Wildcats the three-point line, so Mater Dei shifted its offense inside by feeding senior forward Jossie Hudson in the post. But Montgomery started to increase her level of aggression on offense, earning a few layups off the dribble and tying the game at 19-all after scoring four straight points. The tie was brief, however, as Hudson found room inside for a shot to put Mater Dei ahead once again. All told, the Wildcats took a slim 22-20 lead at the half.

Southridge came out with some more wrinkles in its defense to start the third period, this time focusing on securing the paint. The Raiders made a concerted effort to increase their intensity on their individual man-to-man assignments, and also worked to put two or more bodies on Hudson whenever she got the ball inside. But the Wildcats also packed it inside as Southridge continued to look for the dribble-drives.

Steckler and sophomore center Abigail Kerkhoff were able to deliver a few buckets, and Neukam did more damage by hitting both of her free throws. But those points were matched by another three from Winiger, and scores from senior forward Kelsey Carr and sophomore forward Emily Beckerle. The Wildcats finished the quarter with a slim lead 29-26.

But Montgomery, after being held scoreless in the third, came roaring back with a triple to tie the game at 29 to start the fourth frame. In fact, Montgomery scored seven of the team’s eight points to give Southridge a slight 33-31 lead. But Winiger struck again with a tying bucket along the baseline, and Mater Dei hit four of its last seven free throws to secure the 41-34 win down the stretch.

Winiger finished with 13 points, and Hudson had 10 in the win for Mater Dei. Montgomery led all scorers with 17 points. Steckler had seven and Neukam had six, all from the free throw line.

In addition to the enhanced defensive effort that kept the games close, a factor Rust called a “must have,” one of the positives the team could take away from the game is the way in which Montgomery was able to assert herself offensively as the game progressed. Rust was a bit concerned about how she would find her way in that area of her game, but he liked what he saw from her on Tuesday night.

“She was much better tonight and much more confident shooting the ball,” Rust said. “We want her to shoot the ball when she has that opportunity. As she continues to gain more confidence in what she’s doing, it’s only going to get better.”

“Everyone being positive and helping out keeping my confidence up [helps], because I struggle with staying up if I miss a few shots,” Montgomery said. “The bench really helped with that, and just hitting a few shots can keep you going.”

While the offensive rebounding and lack of second shots cost the Raiders, another factor is the struggle to finish around the basket with consistency in order to cash in on possessions and keep teams from building leads they have to fight through. Rust said the team still has a lot of growing to do in that department. But there is still more season ahead of them, and he thinks they’ll be able to work it out.

“We gotta find a way to finish, we have to seal the deal,” he said. “This group doesn’t know how to do that yet, but we’ll keep working on things. We’ll get everything in line [and] figure it out.”




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