ROXANA — When the Roxana Shells and East Alton-Wood River Oilers meet it's likely to be a doozy. The girls' basketball game between the rivals on Wednesday at Larry Milazzo Gymnasium held true to that tradition.
Roxana hung on to nab a 47-41 victory over the Oilers, but not without trudging through a seesaw battle. EA-WR led 11-10 after one quarter, the Shells were up 26-21 at halftime and the Oilers jumped in front 37-34 after three frames.
Roxana improved to 9-8 with the win, while EA-WR slipped to 2-16, suffering its 11th consecutive loss. First-year Oiler head coach Emily Van Natta wasn't complaining after the competitive contest though.
“The feeling of competing,” Van Natta said. “I get to jump up and down on the sidelines instead of just sitting there. They were not embarrassed tonight. It's a loss, it sucks to be a loss, but that feeling is so good. I told them I hate losing, but I walk away from this game happy because this is the way we need to compete.”
On the other side, a win is a win, but Roxana head coach Tammy Talbert was disappointed with the overall effort of her squad. Talbert gave a stern speech to get the Shells percolating at the close of the third quarter.
“It was basically, 'They want to win more than we want to win and you better change the attitude and start playing with a heart right now.' Basically that's where I was going, because I felt Wood River wanted the game more than we did,” Talbert said.
Talbert did commend the Roxana defense. The Shells forced the Oilers into 19 turnovers in the game. She said they have to find some semblance of an offense though to improve down the stretch.
“At this point I think we're struggling offensively,” Talbert said. “I thought we did some fairly good things on the defensive end, but we have to get better at getting into some kind of offensive flow.”
Roxana opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run and never looked back. A traditional 3-point play by Cassie Vanzo sparked the short spree as the Shells transformed a 37-34 deficit into a 40-37 lead.
Two free throws from EA-WR's Courtney Beneke shaved it to 40-39 with 3:59 to play, but Roxana was able to get to the line and did just enough — hitting 5 of 10 free throws in the final 3:22 — to pull out the victory.
“I thought we were able to do what we wanted to at the end offensively,” Talbert said. “We were able to spread the court out a little bit, we didn't turn the ball over, we were able to make them come out and foul us and that's kind of the key right there. But once again, the little things we have to start getting better.”
EA-WR came out firing early in the game. A 3-pointer by Carly Campbell gave the Oilers an 11-8 advantage with 51 seconds left in the opening stanza, but a pair of free throws by Abby Palen of the Shells cut to 11-10 at the quarter's close.
Campbell went to the bench with two fouls for the second quarter and Roxana looked to capitalize, but the Oilers wouldn't go away. Van Natta was glad to see them hang around with their leading scorer on the bench.
“We might have gone into the half up if she would have been on the court, but it was wonderful to see,” Van Natta said of EA-WR holding strong.
Freshman Sydney Slayden's basket with 21 seconds to go in the half had the Oilers within 24-21 of the Shells, but Dominique McDonald hit a shot at the buzzer to send Roxana into the break with a 26-21 edge.
The Shells looked to gain their footing in the third quarter, expanding their lead to 32-25 with 3:09 to go in the frame on a bucket from Sara Kreutztrager. EA-WR responded with a 10-0 spurt, grabbing a 35-32 advantage. Campbell kickstarted and closed the spree with a pair of treys.
It wasn't enough though, as Roxana went up for good when McDonald hit the backend of two free throws to make it 38-37 at the 6:25 mark of the fourth quarter.
Roxana's offense was led by Rexford and Palen with 13 points apiece, while EA-WR's Campbell led all scorers with 15 points.
ROXANA 47, EA-WR 41
Oilers 11 10 16 4 — 41
Shells 10 16 8 13 — 47
ROXANA (9-8) — Hannah Rexford 13, Abby Palen 13, Cassie Vanzo 7, Dominique McDonald 5, Sara Kreutztrager 7, Lindsey Scroggins 2. 2FG — 18 3FG — 0 FT — 11 PF — 13.
EA-WR (2-16) — Carly Campbell 15, Becca Renken 8, Courtney Beneke 8, Abbie Cathey 2, Anna Stangle 2, Sydney Slayden 4, Krizza Domingo 2. 2FG — 14 3FG — 3 FT — 4 PF — 18.