Feb. 18—St. Joseph Lady Flyers' Laiken Unger (with ball) races by two Southern defenders as she scores in a 46-37 sectional tournament win on Wednesday. (Photo By Tim Gearhart)
Legendary St. Joseph and Ironton high school football coach Bob Lutz used to say, "You play the way you practice."
Well, that explains a lot for the St. Joseph Lady Flyers.
The Lady Flyers struggled early before they finally pulled together and beat the Racine Southern Lady Tornadoes 46-37 in the Division 4 sectional tournament on Wednesday.
St. Joseph trailed the Lady Tornadoes for the entire first half before stepping up their game and taking control in the second half.
Lady Flyers' coach Bart Burcham reflected on the wisdom of Lutz as he explained his team's performance, especially in the first half.
"You could tell we hadn't done anything since last Wednesday in the first quarter," said Burcham. "I told the girls to just relax and play together and they did that the rest of the game."
Burcham said the team's two seniors Emma Whaley and Emilee Blankenship were instrumental in the turnaround, especially Blankenship whose performance seems invisible in the boxscore but has a huge impact on the outcome as she appears to be the basketball persona of The Invisible Woman.
"Emma got us settled down tonight after the first quarter and then we controlled the pace of the game. Emma and Emilee did what senior captains are supposed to do," said Burcham.
"Emilee did what she always does. She always talks on defense, sets screens for everyone and just seems like she's always around the ball."
Bella Whaley continued with her double-double ways as she scored 19 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Lady Flyers (5-14). Emma Whaley had 12 points including some clutch foul shooting in the fourth quarter along with 5 rebounds.
Laiken "The Enforcer" Unger had her best all-around game not only defensively but offensively as she scored a career-high 10 points to go with 6 rebounds. Gracie Damron had 8 rebounds and Blankenship grabbed 5 rebounds.
"Gracie played great in the post and controlled the lane. Bella was Bella. She keeps getting better and better," said Burcham.
"Laiken played awesome tonight. She keeps getting more confident every day. Chloe (Sheridan) was steady like she always is and helped close the game out."
Kayla Evans scored 16 points and Kassidy Chaney 10 for Southern (1-16).
Evans hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 10 points and Chaney made a 3-pointer as Southern took a 15-8 lead.
But the Lady Flyers' defense held Southern to 6 points in the second quarter and Bella Whaley and Emma Whaley hit 3-pointers and the pair combined for all 11 points in the quarter as the Lady Flyers got within 21-19 at the break.
To start the third quarter, Unger hit a baseline shot and then a 15-footer as St. Joseph tied the game 23-all. Blankenship then had a putback as St. Joseph took the lead for good at 25-23 with 5:37 left in the quarter.
Damron followed up a missed shot, Emma Whaley made a layup and Unger dropped in a baseline shot and it was 31-27. Bella Whaley's layup had St. Joseph ahead 33-32.
Emma Whaley and Evans traded layups to begin the fourth quarter. But a layup by Bella Whaley and two foul shots by Emma Whaley followed by a free throw by Bella Whaley the Lady Flyers up 42-36 with 1:20 to play.
Kassidy went 1-for-2 at the line but Emma Whaley was 2-for-2 and both Bella Whaley and Sheridan each hit a free throw to lead to the games.
St. Joseph plays in the sectional finals at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Trimble.
Southern 15 6 11 5 = 37
St. Joseph 8 11 14 13 = 46
RACINE SOUTHERN (1-16): Michelle Adkins 0 0 0-0 0, Lauren Smith 0 0 2-4 2, Kelly Shaver 2 0 0-0 4, Kayla Evans 5 2 0-0 16, Emilee Barber 0 0 0-0 0, Kassidy Chaney 3 1 1-6 10, Hannah Smith 0 0 0-0 0, Lily Allen 2 0 1-2 5. Totals: 12 3 4-12 37. Turnovers: 12. Fouls: 19. Fouled out: None.
ST. JOSEPH (5-14): Emma Whaley 2 1 5-6 12, Bella Whaley 3 3 4-10 19, Emilee Blankenship 1 0 0-0 2, Laiken Unger 4 0 2-3 10, Graci Damron 1 0 0-0 2, Chloe Sheridan 0 0 1-2 1. Totals: 11 4 11-21 46. Turnovers: 11. Rebounds: 41 (B. Whaley 16, Damron 8, Unger 6, E. Whaley 5, Blankenship 5, Sheridan 2.) Fouls: 13. Fouled out: None.