ROXANA — It was truly a tale of two halves Monday at Larry Milazzo Gym in Roxana.
After leading 17-16 after one quarter and 23-18 midway through the second quarter, the Roxana Shells watched the visiting Southwestern Piasa Birds go on a 35-2 run the rest of the way to win 53-25.
With the loss the Shells slipped to 14-11 overall and 3-6 in the South Central Conference on the season. Southwestern improved to 24-3 and 7-1 with the triumph.
“It was a tale of two halves there,” Southwestern head coach Steve Wooley said. “They came out really aggressive and hit a lot of nice shots in the first quarter and got off to a nice start. They play with a lot of confidence when (Maddy) Sheraka is hitting shots.
“The second half was totally opposite. We tried to double (Sheraka) a little bit and made her get rid of the ball a little more. She didn't shoot quite as well in the second half. I thought we did a great job defensively. Obviously we only gave up two points in the second half. I think we stepped it up a little in the second half.”
Roxana head coach Tammy Talbert said the pressure from the Piasa Birds took its toll as the game went on and the Shells went cold from the field.
“We told the kids we thought we played a really solid first half and everyone was playing well offensively,” Talbert said. “I thought we did some good things defensively. I thought we were doing well and then second half they turned the heat up and they forced way too many turnovers. We couldn't get an open look at the basket and forced a lot of things, forced a lot of passes, forced a lot of shots. They did a great job defensively on us.”
There has been a nervous excitement hovering over Roxana as of late. Senior guard Maddy Sheraka is on the cusp of becoming the all-time leading scorer for the Shells. She needed 15 points entering Monday to set the new benchmark. She finished with 12, leaving her three points away from becoming the new leading scorer.
Sheraka now has 1,284 points for her career. All-time leader Angela Payne has 1,286 which she reached in 1996.
Talbert admitted everyone will be happy when the hoopla surrounding the record is over.
“We talked about it in the locker room before the game, how many points she needed,” Talbert said. “I expressed that it's also a team thing. We need to help each other out. The offense is going to come to you. We don't just want her to have the ball in her hands the entire time and focus on her. Everybody knows about it and I just can't wait for it to happen just to take a little pressure off of her. When I walked in the locker room after the game, she doesn't really show a lot of emotion, but after the game she was showing some emotion. I'm sure it's been stressful on her.
“She came out and scored those 12 points fairly quickly and fairly easily and then they shut her down.”
Wooley was aware of the feat at hand, too. He's happy for Sheraka and the Shells, but like every team, the Piasa Birds don't want to be the team to give up the record.
“They told me before the game and said they would stop the game (if she hit it) and I said that was fine, no big deal. It's a great accomplishment when she gets it,” Wooley said. “I'm sure she'll get it, but I don't want her to get it on us.
“I don't feel we did a whole lot different. We doubled her off our press, but double everybody off the press so it wasn't like we changed our whole scheme to take that away. We played her straight up man-to-man, I just thought we did a whole lot better in the second half. Our help defense was a whole lot better in the second half. She didn't get quite as many good looks in the second half.”
No one for Roxana got good looks in the second half, as the Shells didn't have a field goal. The only points Roxana scored in the second half came on two free throws by Erica Sheets with 2:08 to play in the third quarter.
“It was just way out of control at times,” Talbert said. “Maddy was getting double and triple teamed and we had some open players, but then getting them the ball (Southwestern) rotated well enough that it was tough. Then we missed about four easy bunnies underneath at one point and that could have kept it a closer game for a longer time and extended the game a little more, but they just turned up the heat.”
Southwestern has one game left at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Gillespie and then delve into the Class 2A Waverly Regional next week as the No. 1 seed. Wooley thinks the Birds are in good shape for the postseason. Madison Greeling sure continued her hot hand, scoring
“Losing Kelsey (Rhoades) throws us a little bit of a curveball, but we have had five games or so to get acclimated to not having her,” Wooley said. “That's a big blow for us, a big solid inside presence for us and she has the ability to step out and shoot 3s and pull posts away from the bucket, but other kids are starting to come in and get some good minutes.”
For the Shells and Sheraka, they get one more shot in the regular season too, playing host to Dupo at 7:30 p.m. Thursday for their Senior Night. Talbert hopes the three points for Sheraka come quick, so Roxana can move on to focusing on the Tigers.
“We're kind of hoping it's quick,” Talbert said. “That happened at the Waterloo Gibault Tournament, she got (1,000th point) fairly quickly in the first quarter against East Alton-Wood River. Let's hope that happens and then we can move on and concentrate on something else.”
SOUTHWESTERN 53, ROXANA 25
Southwestern 16 11 10 16 — 53
Roxana 17 6 2 0 — 25
ROXANA (14-11, 3-6) — Erica Sheets 2, Hannah Rexford 7, Maddy Sheraka 12, Sara Kreutztrager 4. 2FG — 10 3FG — 0 FT — 5
SOUTHWESTERN (24-3, 7-1) — Karli Green 6, Madison Greeling 27, Payton Heyen 5, Erin Laubscher 9, Ashlyn Ringhausen 2, Malea Bailey 4. 2FG — 15 3FG — 4 FT — 11