Defense holds Arcola’s Edwards to 8
by Kirk Whitaker
Arcola junior Taylor Edwards is a pre-season Player of the Year candidate in most area newspapers for a reason. Everyone knows she can score—Edwards downed 23 points against Neoga Friday—and Monday the Lady Redskins had the task of slowing Edwards down in the home opener of the season.
A team defensive effort did just that.
Sullivan junior guard Elissa Stewart was assigned Edwards in the first half and held her to seven points, and in the second half Emily Neuhauser held Edwards to a sole free throw.
“We had lost to Arcola the previous two seasons,” Redskins head coach Sheri McCain stated. “Taylor Edwards is such an amazing player, and I think in the first half we were focusing on her too much and playing not to lose. In the second half we came together more, and we ended up finishing the job.”
The first half was by no means pretty for the Lady Redskins.
After Neuhauser scored nine of her game high 27 points in the first quarter and Brittin Boyer added seven of her 16—along with 10 rebounds, giving Boyer her second straight double-double—giving the Redskins a 16-13 lead after a quarter of play. However, in the second quarter Arcola started making shots and capitalized on Sullivan’s inconsistent rebounding out of their 1-2-2 zone defense and didn’t allow the Lady Redskins to get out in transition, which has been a strong suit for Sullivan this season, cutting the deficit to 24-22 at intermission.
“We didn’t box out well on defense in the second quarter,” McCain said. “On the transition plays we had and when we got close looks they just didn’t go in for us, but we worked our way out of it in the second half.”
The third quarter saw the lead change hands four times, with neither team breaking a four point advantage. An Arcola two-pointer with less than five seconds in the quarter tied the ballgame at 38 going into the final stanza of play.
Then events got interesting.
Neuhauser opened the quarter with a bucket and foul—converting the three-point-play—and after senior Maggie Plank converted a layup after an offensive rebound, Neuhauser added two to push the lead to its largest margin at seven points.
After an Arcola bucket, Stewart downed a three-pointer to stretch the lead to 48-40. After Edwards’ free throw, Boyer found Stewart for another three-ball and stretched the lead to 51-41 and forced a Rider timeout with 3:30 left in the game.
“Elissa had the green light to shoot tonight,” McCain said. “The time she gave up that offensive board, I kinda got on her a little bit, and jokingly said ‘now go make a three and make up for it’ and she did exactly that. I saw it in her eyes that she had the confidence in crunch time, and that really helped us finish the game.”
However, the fat lady wasn’t singing yet.
Arcola went on a 9-2 run and, with 1:58 left in the game, brought the Lady Redskin lead back down to 53-50.
Thankfully for McCain and company, it was Lady Redskins’ turn to go on a run.
Sullivan closed the game on an 8-0 streak featuring a bucket by Neuhauser and free throws from Boyer and Stewart along with a transition two late sealing the deal from freshman Paisley Meyers to take the game 62-52.
“It’s fabulous to win our first home game,” McCain closed. “We lost to Arcola the previous two seasons, but we came out and finished the job and protected our home court, which is what we wanted to do. We came together as a team on both the offensive and defensive end and that was a big reason why we were able to stretch the lead when we did. I was proud of the girls tonight.”
The Lady Redskins will travel to Tuscola next Monday to face the Warriors in their first Okaw Valley contest of the season. The JV game will start at 6 p.m., and the varsity game will follow.
Stats: E. Neuhauser: 10-5-27, 2 rebounds, 1 steal; B. Boyer: 6-4-16, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 blocks; E. Stewart: 4-2-13, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals; M. Plank: 1-0-2, 4 rebounds, 3 steasl, 1 assist; T. Murphy: 1-0-2, 2 rebounds; P. Meyers: 1-0-2, 2 rebounds.