February 27th, 2012
Assumption Hangs On Over Presentation
Rockets use 45-27 edge on the boards to fuel win
In the end, the Class Act 7th Region quarterfinal between Presentation Academy and Assumption came down to taking advantage of an advantage. The Assumption Rockets had the size and they used that size to outrebound the Toppers by 18 on their way to a 58-53 win Monday afternoon at Bellarmine University’s Knights Hall.
With 6’6” freshman center Nora Kiesler and a trio of forwards in senior Morgan Foley (5’10”), junior Katie Friedrich (5’10”) and junior Kelsey Kaiser (5’9”), the Rockets dominated the glass and got the important rebounds late in the game to seal the win.
The win didn’t come without drama. A lot of drama.
Just 13 days earlier, the Toppers upset the Rockets at Assumption on Senior Night 50-41. The Assumption girls looked determine to erase that game from their memory as they scored on their first two possessions and took an 8-0 lead. That comfortable lead didn’t last very long.
“We started off strong because the girls wanted revenge,” said Assumption head coach Steve Small. “The girls started the game playing really intense. But Presentation has a lot of seniors on their team and they knocked down a couple of threes and got right back in the game.”
As Small mentioned, that 8-0 Assumption lead was wiped out by a trio of Presentation three pointers, one each by seniors Shelby Adams and Ashlee Kirchner and sophomore Aliyah Johnson. A put-back by Kiesler put the Rockets up 12-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The young Assumption squad, with only two seniors, showed some inexperience with 10 first half turnovers compared to just 4 by the Presentation girls. And the Rockets 10 for 25 shooting in the opening two periods included several missed shots from within an arm’s reach of the basket.
The one constant for Assumption was rebounding. The Rockets earned a 25-8 rebounding edge in the first half on their way to a 45-27 advantage for the game.
While that type of uneven performance could be attributed to a young squad’s inexperience and nervousness, it was clear that the Toppers were putting a lot of pressure on the Assumption guards throughout. The one point lead Assumption held at halftime, 24-23, was certainly indicative of the game’s high stakes.
“I told the girls at halftime that anything could happen,” said Small. “We could go up by ten or they could go up by five and a lot of times this season we would start to fold if we got down, but we had to fight through that.”
The Toppers started the second half with a 12-6 run that gave them a 35-30 lead. It was at that point where Small’s halftime talk came to fruition, but this time his girls didn’t fold. They executed a 16-3 run on the strength of 7 points from Kiesler, a three pointer apiece from starting guards Brandy Hunter and Becca Durbin, and a layup at the end of the third quarter from Friedrich to take a 46-38 lead into the fourth.
“Up 35-30 we missed a layup,” said Toppers head coach David Jackson. “(If we could have gone up) 37-30 we could have had a shot. But the game plan was to make them beat us from outside. Their size killed us.”
Kiesler scored 14 of her 18 points in the middle two quarters to lead the Rockets. Along with Friedrich’s 11, Foley’s 8 and Kaiser’s 4, Assumptions forwards scored 41 of their 58 points and grabbed 32 of their 42 rebounds (they were credited with 3 team rebounds). Assumption’s tall foursome wreaked havoc on the boards including 19 offensive rebounds that led to 23 points.
“You’ve got to be strong with the basketball and make those easy baskets,” said Small. “The last time we played them we took 21 threes and that’s not normal for us. We worked very hard on driving to the basket and getting the ball inside. We did a lot of good things in those areas today.”
Presentation senior guard Bailey Reeder stopped that 16-3 Assumption run at the start of the fourth quarter with a short jump shot. That helped jump-start the Toppers attack as junior guard Meredith Degner hit a three pointer and followed that with a layup to close the gap to just one at 46-45 with 5:47 remaining.
But the Rockets responded with a 10 point run of their own on a Hunter three and two free throws, a Friedrich putback and a free throw and two free throws from Foley. The tough Assumption defense held Presentation scoreless from the 5:47 mark until just 0:38 remained. Game over. Season over for the Toppers.
Reeder, a four year varsity player, scored 12 points and added 6 assists. Her steady hand kept the Toppers in contention throughout.
“We beat them for the first time in my four years here (on February 14),” stated Reeder. “It was a huge accomplishment for us and we knew this would be a good game. We were ready for it; we were prepared for it. We played hard, but we just couldn’t pull it out. All four years have been great and played varsity ball with the same few girls for a long time. It’s been a great experience. Sad to be over, but no regrets.”
Johnson, who was 4-9 from three point range, led the Toppers in scoring with 14. Senior forward Shelby Adams was limited to 7 points, but she led her team with 8 rebounds.
Presentation finished their season at 16-15 while Assumption improved to 15-13.
“It’s very, very important for our girls to have some success in the post-season,” said Small. “This was a tremendous win for our program.”
The Rockets will face rival Sacred Heart on Wednesday in the 7th Region semifinals at Knights Hall. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30pm. The Rockets dropped a hard-fought 48-45 decision to Sacred Heart on January 15 on the very same court.