ROXANA — It was a heck of a night for the Roxana Shells on Thursday.
On their Senior Night and regular season finale the Shells carved up the Dupo Tigers 55-32. If that wasn't enough two of Roxana's seniors had career defining games.
Maddy Sheraka etched herself into the history books by surpassing Angela Payne to become the all-time leading scorer for the Shells, finishing with 17 points. She now has 1,301 points for her career. Erica Sheets then decided to turn in the best night of her career, netting a game-high 24 points to accompany 21 rebounds — eight on the offensive end — and five blocks.
Roxana wraps up the regular season at 15-11 and hits the postseason on a high note. Dupo ends up 12-11 with the loss.
“Of course Senior Night is an exciting night for everybody and they were excited coming into it and also they were excited that Maddy was probably going to break the career record tonight,” Roxana head coach Tammy Talbert said. “I felt like we started the night a little slow, but once we got things going I thought we were playing really well. We did some good things inside that we haven't been able to do before, so that was a positive for us.”
The Tigers' game plan was to focus on Sheraka defensively and keep her in check, but when they did Sheets did her part to open it up and spread the defense.
Dupo charged out to a 6-0 lead, but when Sheets scored the first 11 points for the Shells, they found themselves ahead 11-9. When the first quarter closed it was 13-10 in favor of Roxana.
Elizabeth Rexford's basket with 25 seconds to go in the opening stanza kick started a 13-0 run by the Shells that extended until the 5:22 mark of the second quarter, putting them up 24-10.
The biggest point of that stretch came at the 5:52 mark of the second quarter. Sheraka entered Thursday needing three points to set the new school scoring record. She hit a 2-pointer at the 7:00 mark of the second quarter, but then found herself at the free throw line with 5:52 left in the first half shooting a 1-and-1. She swished the free throw and the crowd erupted with applause as it was announced over the speakers. Time was taken for her teammates to congratulate her and the first smile of the week crept onto her face.
Doing it at the free throw line was a little extra stressful, but Sheraka is just happy to have the hoopla of the record behind her.
“Definitely after the Southwestern game (Monday) I was like, 'Man, I need to get it over with,'” Sheraka said. “I was happy to be able to do it tonight. That was the most pressured 1-and-1 I've had to shoot in my whole entire life. I got up there and was like, 'Man, if I miss this it's going to be so embarrassing and I really just want to get it over with.' I was very relieved when I got it. I just felt like I could go out there and not worry about anything anymore.”
Sheets knew with the focus on Sheraka she may have the chance to step up. She was happy to do her part and draw the defense away from her teammate and allow her the opportunity at the record.
“We definitely wanted to make sure Maddy got to break the record and I'm happy that we succeeded,” Sheets said. “I watched her grow up as a player and she's always excelled on the court, so it's been great to watch her get 1,000 points and then watch her break the school record in just a couple of months. It's a great feeling to watch somebody achieve something like that.”
Dupo head coach Josh LeMond thought his team really came unraveled following Sheraka's feat. The Shells outscored the Tigers 18-4 in the second quarter and took a commanding 31-14 lead into the locker room.
“The first quarter we played a heck of a game,” LeMond said. “The game plan worked well. We kept (Sheraka) from scoring and I knew Sheets would probably have a good game, but our defense did what it's supposed to do, but we got a little deflated after she got the three points. I thought that changed the momentum of the game a little bit.”
The Tigers came back out in the third quarter with a little more life. They chipped away, dwindling Roxana's lead to 37-25 by the end of the third, but the final eight minutes belonged to the Shells again.
Roxana outscored Dupo 18-7 in the fourth quarter, closing the game with a 10-0 spurt. Sheets got in the mix again, pouring in eight points down the stretch. She was 6 of 8 from the free throw line in the fourth and 12 of 16 for the game.
“I work hard in practice and it's finally paying off at the end of the season,” Sheets said. “Hopefully during the postseason we'll come out with another win.”
That's what had Talbert excited, the fact her two senior leaders produced on such a big night with the playoffs on the horizon at 7:30 p.m. Monday against East Alton-Wood River at the Class 2A Carlyle Regional.
“In practice (Sheets) has been stepping up into that leadership role a little more,” Talbert said. “I think she's getting that mentality now that no matter what it takes she's going to try to do it to get the team a victory.”
Sheraka is just happy she can focus on the postseason now and try to bring the Shells their first regional crown since 2001-02.
“I'm definitely glad I got this over with tonight, so we can just focus on winning next week,” she said. “Last time we played (EA-WR) it wasn't as easy as the first two times. Hopefully we can get out and get them down early so we can relax a little bit.”
In three regular season meetings with the Oilers, Roxana won 58-34, 56-29 and 47-43.
“It's hard to play a team three times and that was a battle down in Wood River,” Talbert said. “For the fourth time, we're going to look at some film and we're going to give it our best shot. I think these kids are really excited to play Wood River again.”
ROXANA 55, DUPO 32
Dupo 10 4 11 7 — 32
Roxana 13 18 6 18 — 55
ROXANA (15-11) — Elizabeth Rexford 4, Maddy Sheraka 17, Erica Sheets 24, Hannah Rexford 8, Abby Palen 2. 2FG — 18 3FG — 0 FT — 19 PF — 8
DUPO (12-11) — Jessica Stansch 2, Savannah Maldanado 2, Leia Campbell 11, Rachel Donald 8, Megan Brown 7, Julie Snider 2. 2FG — 11 3FG — 1 FT — 5 PF — 21