LAGRANGE — You wouldn’t have believed it watching Keystone’s girls in the first half Saturday night.
But the Wildcats pitched a shutout in the third quarter, allowed just one field goal the second half and clinched a share of the Patriot Athletic Conference basketball crown.
Keystone (12-4, 9-2 PAC) turned in a convincing 55-37 victory over Wellington after trailing by 10 points after a quarter and five at the half. The Lady Dukes fell to 11-7, 6-6 in the conference.
By the time they outscored the Lady Dukes 32-9 over the final 16 minutes, they were ready to cut down the nets to celebrate the title tie. They did just that, with Aubrie Ridinger, the only senior on the team, taking the first snip.
“This means a lot because we’ve been working hard to accomplish it,” said Ridinger. “It was a big game and it meant a lot especially after getting off to a rough start.” With its two tallest players out with injures, Keystone lost its season opener to Admiral King, 61-14.
It looked as though the Wildcats were backsliding when they fell behind Wellington 12-5 less than five minutes into the game and trailed 16-6 after a quarter. But they showed signs of life when they opened the second with a
6-2 run and closed it with a 7-2 run, cutting the Dukes’ lead to 28-23 at the break.
“I think the turnaround started toward the end of the second quarter,” said Keystone coach Scott Terry. “We picked up our defensive intensity and got some easy buckets there going into halftime. I thought that even though we were down, we had the momentum going. The game plan was to come out in the third quarter and keep our defensive intensity up and to get the ball inside the paint.”
Ah, yes, get the ball inside to the big juniors, 6-foot-2 Erin Gallagher and 5-10 Chloe Irish. It worked. With Irish and Gallagher lobbing inside to each other, and with the Wildcats’ guards joining the fun, this pair combined for 23 second-half points, 18 on baskets in the paint. The other points resulted from free throws.
Irish said the Wildcats’ inside game was a big factor.
“We like to go inside because we know we can have a strong game inside if we’re having a good night,” said Irish, who scored 15 points, 11 the second half. “It just connected tonight.”
“Everybody just stepped up, especially in the second half,” said Gallagher, who finished with a game-high 17 points, a dozen in the second half. “The second half we came out strong and did what we had to do. The first half we were having trouble with our rotation on defense.”
The defensive problems disappeared after the break. Wellington, which got a layup from Katie Stumphauzer at the end of the second quarter, didn’t score another point for nine minutes, 37 seconds when Alyssa Rangel made two foul shots. The Dukes scored their lone second-half field goal when Amy Rader made a layup with 2:32 left in the game.
“There’s no excuse for being outscored 22-0 in the third quarter after pretty much dominating the first half,” said Wellington coach Ron Clady. “We’re going to have to find ways to change the things that made that happen. We feel we have the talent and we showed it in the first half. But you have to be able to play the second half as well and feel that confidence and build on it.”
The Keystone defense held Wellington’s Emily Touma scoreless in the second half after the junior sharpshooter scored 10 points in the first, including the team’s two 3-point field goals. The Wildcats’ Becky Nielsen, who scored seven points, hit the team’s only 3-pointers.
Now, about the conference standings. Under the PAC system, teams receive two points for a victory over division opponents and one for victories over crossover opponents. Keystone, playing in the Stars Division, holds a five-point lead over division teams with two PAC games to play, both against Stars opponents, Buckeye and Black River. They lead Clearview of the Stripes Division by two points in the overall title race.
Contact Bob Daniels at 329-7137 or email@example.com.
WELLINGTON (37): Cassie Gleisner 2-1-5, Amy Rader 2-1-5, Christy King 0-0-0, Morgan Brasee 0-3-3, Becky King 0-0-0, Emily Touma 3-2-10, Alyssa Rangel 1-2-4, Katie Stumphauzer 2-2-6, Chrissy Greer 1-2-4, Callie McConnell 0-0-0. Totals: 11-13-37.
KEYSTONE (55): Becky Nielsen 2-2-7, Kim Kokoski 1-0-2, Taylor Bell 1-0-2, Aubrie Ridinger 0-3-3, Taylor Kessinger 1-2-4, Chloe Irish 6-3-15, Karli Sturgil 1-0-2, Casidy Gregory 1-1-3, Erin Gallagher 6-5-17, Melanie Bastock 0-0-0. Totals 19-16-55.
Wellington 16 12 0 9 — 37
Keystone 6 17 22 10 — 55
Three-point goals: Wellington 2-7 (Touma 2); Keystone 1-9 (Nielsen). Field goals: Wellington 11-55 (20 percent); Keystone 19-58 (33 percent). Free throws: Wellington 13-23; Keystone 16-37. Rebounds: Wellington 38; Keystone 41. Turnovers: Wellington 21; Keystone 16. Fouled out: None.
Junior varsity: Keystone, 43-25.