Southridge moves on in sectional roundFebruary 4, 2020
BY JONATHAN SAXON
FERDINAND — The struggles of the Southridge girls basketball team have been well-documented this season. A myriad of injuries forced them to start from scratch at different times during the season, and matters weren’t helped with carrying a five-game losing streak into sectional. Yet the Raiders (9-14) didn’t let those things steal their will to compete, and instead they gritted out a tough 28-25 win against the Pocket Athletic Conference rival North Posey Vikings on Tuesday night to advance to the second round of the girls Class 2A Forest Park sectional.
Raiders coach Greg Werner praised the way his girls battled throughout the game, which featured them losing and reclaiming the lead in the second half.
“I’m extremely proud of the fight that they had,” he said. “They weren’t going to give in, and they didn’t stop believing. It’s been a tough stretch for them, and to find a way to win, I’m happy for the kids.”
Sophomore forward Mikah Goeppner got the party started with a three, though Vikings (5-16) sophomore forward Claire Koester cobbled together her own triplet to even things up. Goeppner simply landed another three, and junior center Abigail Kerkhoff finished the quarter with an inside bucket to put the Raiders up 8-3.
Sophomore forward Jenna Rhineburger used the drive and a trip to the free throw line to close the gap, but Goeppner used a layup and her third three to keep the Raiders out front. Rhineburger found the rack one more time before the end of the second, but the Raiders clung to a 13-8 lead at halftime.
Senior guard Haley Wilson drew contact and made both her shots from the line to start the third quarter, and Koester split another pair to get the Vikings within two points of the Raiders. Freshman guard Marie Tempel tried to stave off the charge, but Rhineburger and junior center Jenna Heath combined their efforts to overtake the Raiders, plus additional free throws from Wilson and Heath formed a four-point Vikings lead. Kerkhoff put in a free throw before the end of the third, but the Raiders went into the final quarter down 20-17.
The Raiders created a turnover off their press which turned into a Kerkhoff bucket to start the fourth. Tempel tied the game at 21-all with free throws, and junior guard Kennedy Nalley capitalized on another turnover with a score that gave the Raiders back the lead, 23-21. Wilson tied it again, but Nalley, Kerkhoff and Goeppner made 5-of-6 from the free throw line to put the Raiders up 28-25 with a few minutes left to play. The rest of the game was a test in playing keep away with the Vikings, though the result wasn’t settled until Wilson missed a last-chance three with 3.6 seconds left.
Goeppner had 12 points to lead the Raiders, while Kerkhoff finished with seven. Wilson, Heath and Rhineburger each had seven points for the Vikings. Heath also had 10 rebounds.
“We didn’t play how we wanted to but we played good enough to beat them,” said Goeppner. “We had to overcome the adversity that hit us. We just worked our hardest in practice.”
“We knew it was going to be tough to fit all the pieces together,” added Nalley. “In the end, we played through the adversity and it paid off.”
It was emotionally uplifting for the Raiders to earn their first round win given all the difficulties they’ve dealt with all season. Injuries to senior Grace Sickbert, junior Monica Steckler sophomore Myah Montgomery and junior Rose Tempel took critical cogs out of the lineup, and all remaining players were forced to find ways to replace what the team lost. However, they always believed something good could happen if they kept playing, and that word was validated on Tuesday night.
“It feels really good for all of us,” said Marie Tempel. “It was a tough season. There’s no excuses for how we play now. We used what we have, pushed through and we’re proud of each other for getting the win but know we have a lot to work on for the next game.”
The Raiders will play 6:30 p.m. Friday against the host PAC rival Forest Park Rangers (17-7).
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