St. Clair’s girls basketball team rebounded from a first-round loss and rolled past North County of Bonne Terre, 58-34, in a loser’s bracket semifinal game at the 31st U.S. Bank Holiday Invitational on Friday afternoon at Rolla High School.
The Lady Bulldogs returned to form by hounding North County with their full-court pressure defense, making free throws and getting balanced scoring.
“We got off to a much better start and played with a lot more intensity,” said St. Clair Head Coach Mike Scheer. “Our pressure caused a lot of turnovers in the first quarter and then we just played off that.”
Hannah Machelett hit a pair of threes and Haley Buscher scored seven points as St. Clair built a 19-3 lead after one quarter. Then in the second quarter Erin York knocked down a couple of threes and sophomore reserve Gracie Sohn got into the scoring, sending St. Clair into the break with a 38-15 lead.
Scheer said Sohn, a 5-9 forward, has been contributing all season when she comes off the bench.
“She really played well in our first two games in this tournament,” said Scheer. “We play 10 girls and they all contribute. A lot of times it’s a girl coming off the bench who leads us in scoring.”
Sohn led the charge in the third quarter when she scored nine of her team’s 14 points. Sohn did all her scoring in the second and third quarters to finish with a game-high 15 points.
Scheer was glad to see his team charged up coming out of halftime against North County, because the Lady Bulldogs were flat the day before against Rolla when they were outscored 15-3 in the third quarter. St. Clair did not score from the field in that quarter.
“We were much better, I thought, in how we played defensively and that carried over to the offense,” he said.
Scheer also said the Lady Bulldogs were more efficient with the ball, committing just 11 turnovers against North County. “I can live with that,” he said.
St. Clair’s full-court pressure defense is the style that its new coach has brought to the program.
“We push them hard in practice to condition them to play that style. Stamina at the end of the game is huge for us. We are playing a full-court zone press most of the time, but there have been a few games where we switched to a man-to-man press.”
North County came into the Rolla tournament having won four of its last five games, but then lost its first round tourney contest to St. James. Scheer had his team primed for the Lady Raiders.
“I was really proud of the way they came and played against North County. We needed to establish that intensity because we had a lot of respect for them.”
St. Clair cashed in at the foul line, too, making 14 of 18 shots, with Sohn going 7-7. She also had six rebounds, three steals and two assists. York finished with 12 points and Buscher rounded out double figure scoring with 11.
“Haley has been steady for us all year long,” said Scheer.
Machelett scored eight points for the Lady Bulldogs while Alana Hinson added seven. Megan Hinson and Grace Shirey each had two and Makenzie Schmidtke scored one.
One Bad Quarter
It was easy to pinpoint the turning point in St. Clair’s 54-43 loss to Rolla in the opening round of the tournament, played at Rolla High School.
After Rolla scored the first eight points of the game, and then went on to a 12-2 lead, Scheer called timeout and St. Clair regrouped. His team clicked on a 9-2 run and whittled Rolla’s first-quarter lead to 14-11.
St. Clair got on a roll when Buscher and Megan Hinson hit back-to-back threes, and the Lady Bulldogs rallied to take a 27-24 halftime lead. But then came that disastrous third quarter.
“The way we came out in the second half was not good,” said Scheer.
“We missed a lot of easy baskets, and fouled to much to put them at the free throw line.”
Rolla scored 19 points on free throws, and 16 of them came in the second half. That was a huge difference, said Scheer.
“My girls play really, really hard and pressure all over the court. There are some times we have to play smarter. Sometimes we make silly fouls and that has hurt us, especially when you play good teams.”
Rolla was 9-11 at the free-throw line in the final quarter as St. Clair had to foul in an attempt to catch up. York and Schmidtke fouled out and St. Clair was whistled for 23 fouls.
Sohn paced St. Clair with nine points and pulled down eight rebounds. York and Megan Hinson each had eight points while Alana Hinson scored six and Buscher five. Calyn LaCrone had three points with Grace Shirey and Emma Hinson each with two.