2017-02-23 / Sports

Eagles escape Leland, set sights on Frankfort

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

HALEY TARSA of St. Mary (22) attacks the Leland zone as Margie Stowe (21) gives chase during second-quarter action in Leland on Monday. HALEY TARSA of St. Mary (22) attacks the Leland zone as Margie Stowe (21) gives chase during second-quarter action in Leland on Monday. How does St. Mary coach Pete Finch plan to limit Frankfort’s Cecelia Schmitt in the opening round of districts on Monday?

The blueprint starts with an old-fashioned smokescreen in the local paper — and it ends with the same approach that’s led to 12 wins this winter.

“We’re going to play a 2-3-1 zone,” Finch said with a laugh. “Well, our different defensive looks with our aggressive defense keeps us in a lot of games. There’s that expression ‘you dance with who brung ya’ and we’re going to play aggressive defense.”

The team won’t have the luxury of dancing with starting guard Lexi Schaub in the lineup, however, after she broke a toe in the team’s 23-18 loss at Northport on Feb. 9.

Finch said his team has had to adjust on the fly.

“She’s a playmaker, a defensive stalwart, and we miss her,” Finch said. “We’re rallying and doing well, but she’s a big piece of our team.”

The Lady Eagles (12-5, 2-2 Cherryland) split a pair of games in Schaub’s absence this week, notching a 26-22 win at Leland on Monday and a 46-28 loss at Brethren on Tuesday.

St. Mary girls looked out of sorts early against the Lady Comets (5-14, 5-10 Northwest), but timely 3-pointers and a strong third quarter led to a regular-season sweep of their county rivals.

Leland kept St. Mary off the scoreboard for the first 4:13 of the game, but its 6-0 lead didn’t last.

“I thought we played a very good first half defensively,” Leland coach Ryan Knudsen said. “We were just not able to sustain our effort throughout.”

A 3-pointer from Emily Holmes erased an 11-9 halftime deficit, swinging the momentum in a 9-5 third quarter. Finch said strong defense secured the win.

Hanna Grant scored a game-high 11 points for St. Mary. Maddie Grosvenor led Leland with seven.

St. Mary was unable to overcome another slow start the next day, however, after Taytum Myers and the Brethren girls raced out to a 17-8 lead in the first quarter and a 30-14 edge at halftime.

St. Mary has now lost four of six games after a 10-1 start. Finch has noticed positives in that span, however, including strong interior defense from Lindsey Fleis and Annalea Hobbins.

“We’re finishing against some really good competition and ultimately I think we’ll be better for it,” he said. “Districts are a different animal altogether, but we’ve got the pieces to compete. It’s become more about how we’re playing than how our record is. It was nice to get out to a 10-1 start but we’ve learned just as much during this stretch. People are stepping up for Lexi and communicating on the floor — and something we haven’t lost in this whole thing is our defense.”

The Lady Eagles, who are giving up 27.7 points per game, will close out the regular season tonight at Mason County Central. The showdown with Frankfort in Northport will start at 7 p.m.

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