AdVantage News | Caleb Motsinger
Southwestern’s Kelsey Rhoades drives to the basket in front of Carlinville’s Megan Stayton.
Maddy Greeling and Ashlyn Ringhausen agree that it’s teamwork enabling the Southwestern High girls’ basketball team percolate.
The team that plays together tends to stay together. And 22-2 Southwestern, rated No. 9 in the latest Class 2A state poll, has visions of a strong finish after a solid start. The Piasa Birds continue to pulsate.
“We all work well together,” said Greeling, a 5-foot-5 sophomore guard averaging a team-best 18 points per game. “We have a lot of confidence in ourselves and I believe we can go pretty far this season.
She added, “We’re relaxed because we have already dealt with a lot of pressure when we played together at state in junior high. So we know how to deal with it.”
Ringhausen, a 5-6 junior guard, said: “We have put in a lot of work and executing well. We need to keep playing together and if we get the mental part of our game going where we need it to be, the physical part will follow.”
Thus far, Southwestern is making things happen. The Piasa Birds are eyeing another South Central Conference championship and perhaps a deep run in the postseason.
Their only two losses came to Civic Memorial in the championship game of the Jersey Tournament and to Carlinville in the finals of the Macoupin County tourney.
“I’d say I’m pleasantly surprised by what we’ve done,” longtime coach Steve Wooley said. “I think we’ve been pretty competitive and even though we don’t have a lot of size, we adjust and match up with people on defense.”
Nobody should be shocked the Piasa Birds are succeeding. It’s a pattern they’ve followed for years, particularly since Wooley started coaching them 17 years ago.
They’ve won 393 games during that time, meaning Wooley is closing is on the 400-win club. Southwestern has strung together 20-or-more-win seasons 13 times under Wooley’s watch. They’ve captured 10 regional titles, two sectional championships, 10 SCC titles and nine county crowns.
Basically, Southwestern has created a recipe for success. Wooley said there’s no secret to it.
“The first thing we teach is a good work ethic,” he said. “When you have that, the kids really want to compete. We also stress fundamentals.”
In addition, the Piasa Birds are known for their stingy defense and exceptional ball-handling. They like to control the ball and the style of every game.
“It’s one game at a time and one possession at a time,” Wooley said. “If you take care of the ball well, you will have more possessions to score.”
Erin Laubscher, Kelsey Rhoades, Randi Hopkins and Peyton Heyen – among others – have made key contributions to the team’s winning ways.
“We have pretty good balance offensively and all five of our players in the game can score,” Wooley said. “We usually shoot the ball pretty well. On defense, we focus so much on defending the other team’s inside game and we rebound by committee.”
Ringhausen said, “Our strength is that we have a balanced team. Everybody does their part and that’s important. We all have confidence in each other.”
Greeling pointed out, “We need to keep playing hard and have the desire that we want it more than anyone else. You have to know what you can do and go out and do it.”
What can the Piasa Birds do?
“My goal is for the team to win the conference and the regional,” Greeling said.
Wooley would be happy with those achievements, but he said doing things the right way is the most important item at this point.
“If you play as hard as you can, the championships will take care of themselves,” he said.