SJO girls fall in regular season finale, prepare for the postseason this week

The postseason has arrived for the St. Joseph-Ogden Lady Spartans, and under first-year head coach Kevin Taylor, the Spartans have fared very well.  During the regular season, SJO have had some key wins, as well as some exciting finishes.  The comeback victory over Rockford Lutheran in overtime at the State Farm Holiday Classic in December, as Hannah Dukeman hit the first of her two buzzer beaters on the season.  Dukeman would also sink the game winning shot later in the season as the Spartans took down previously undefeated Monticello at home. Taylor, who was an assistant coach last season for Brian Loman, knows that he hasn’t done this alone, and with his assistant coaches to help him along the way, they have gotten the job done.

“With the addition of Coach (Pat) Kelly, and the retaining of Ashley Langley, we have really focused on the mental side of the game this season, and although we don’t have a lot of size of strength, we are a very athletic team, which has led in some respects to our success this season”, Taylor said regarding his coaching staff and how they approached this season with not a lot of size in the post. 

All of this in-season success has earned the Spartans the top seed in the St. Thomas More Regional, which begins on Monday night in Champaign.  The action will begin with a pair of first-round games featuring the Argenta-Oreana Bombers, which comes in as the #9 seed, facing the Blue Ridge Knights, which earned the #10 seed.  The second game on the first night will match #5 seed Heyworth Hornets against the #11 seed Tri-Valley Vikings.  SJO (18-8, 7-2 IPC) will face the winner of the first game on Tuesday evening at 6:00 pm, while the host Sabers, who were given the #4 seed, will face the winner of Game 2 immediately following the Spartans’ contest.  The winner of the two games on Tuesday night will face each other on Thursday evening in the regional championship, with the winner advancing on to the Iroquois West Sectional the following week in Gilman. 

Unlike last season, when the Spartans had a rash of injuries to deal with, the overall health of the team is pretty good heading into regional play, with an occasional battle with the flu here and there.  Taylor also talked about his senior leadership, as well as some of the younger players that continue to contribute.

“With Sydney (Kelso), Sarah (Acklin) and Brooke (Berry) being our seniors, along with Alyssa Wilcoxon, they have set a good example for the younger players, and although we lost Brooke to a knee injury, they have all played well this season.  The junior corps of Maclayne Taylor, Bree Trimble, and Peyton Crowe, along with sophomore Hannah Dukeman, have really served us well, and should give us some good momentum as we head into the postseason”, Taylor added about some of his leaders.

As far as the final regular season game of the season, the Lady Spartans traveled to Bloomington to face the Saints of Central Catholic, and squandered a 32-36 halftime lead, falling 62-57 by scoring just three points in the fourth quarter.  Bree Trimble led the way for SJO with 21 points, while Hannah Dukeman added 16.  Peyton Crowe chipped in 13 points for the Spartans, who was 5-9 from the free throw line for the game.  BCC, who finishes the regular season a perfect 9-0 in Illini Prairie action and 21-5 overall, was led in scoring by Lauren Shanks with 18 points and Abbey Davis, who scored 14.  Bailey Coffman added 12 for the Saints, who were 9-13 from the free throw line for the game.

While the results of the regional will not be available when The Leader goes to press, updates will be online at www.leaderlandnews.com throughout the tournament.  

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