Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


December 27, 2013

Stephenson, Hearts go 2-0 at Charleston

Senior leads Effingham past Decatur Eisenhower

CHARLESTON — When Jeff Schafer submits his starting lineups on a night-to-night basis, it isn't easier for him to make a decision at guard.

But usually, the lineup has Felicia Totten starting at the off-guard position with senior Lauren Stephenson coming off the bench.

Stephenson showed why that decision gives Schafer pause Thursday night, scoring a team-high 15 points off the bench during a 56-40 win over Decatur Eisenhower at the Charleston Holiday Tournament.

"It's hard looking Lauren Stephenson in the eye and not starting her," Schafer said. "Felicia Totten is such a good role player and doesn't mind screening for Caitlin (Kaufman) and Josie (Zerrusen).

"(But) Lauren was kind of the key to saving this game."

The Lady Hearts moved to 11-0 with the win and 2-0 at the CHT, after defeating Paris 45-24 Thursday morning. The Hearts are the defending CHT champions.

Stephenson scored 11 of those points during the first half, providing a huge lift to a struggling Effingham offense. Thanks to her and her fellow benchmates, Effingham took a 28-20 lead to the half, thanks to 16 points off the bench.

Depth has been a strength for the Lady Hearts all season, and that first half was the perfect example as to why.

"They helped us survive ... that's just where you go get someone else," Schafer said. "Lauren did a great job, Maddy (Field) gave us some good minutes, I thought Marranda (Steffen) came in and did a pretty good job as well. We got contributions from 11 of the 12 kids today."

Things settled down for the Hearts in the second half, as their defense buckled down and forced an athletic Eisenhower team into more half-court sets.

The half-court game was where it was won, as Eisenhower struggled to get quality looks and Effingham continued moving the ball and getting their shots to fall with greater frequency.

"We knew they couldn't beat us in the half-court game, and we let them go coast-to-coast," Schafer said. "I thought we just weathered the storm, didn't panic and played methodically."

With a 40-32 lead going into the fourth, Schafer singled out a layup by Jantzen Michael as a turning point, where she swooped in on a loose ball and took it uncontested to the lane, pushing the lead to double digits.

Kaufman had 14 points despite going 4-of-15 from third-point range, Zerrusen had 13, and Michael scored five points.

The depth showed up again in the box score. Devon Thaxton had 19 points for the Lady Panthers, Tiana Cook added 14, but only three other Panthers scored from there totaling seven points.

Effingham vs. Paris

In the early game, it took the Hearts' offense a bit longer to wake up against their Apollo Conference rival Paris Tigers.

Playing the day's earliest game at 9 a.m., Effingham's shooting hit the snooze button in the first quarter, as the Lady Hearts led Paris 4-2 after the opening eight minutes.

But things improved from there, as Effingham scored 21 points in the second quarter and cruised to a 45-24 win in its tournament opener.

For Schafer, it was more of a question of when as opposed to if the offense would get going, as he was pleased with the shot selection.

"It wasn't like we were taking bad shots when we were getting triangle-and-two-ed," he said. "When they share the basketball, we're hard to stop."

Zerrusen topped the team with 22 points, while Michael scored 10 as the only other Heart in double figures. Field and Stephenson each had four points.

Effingham will play twice again today, first against Chicago Orr (0-2 in Gold Pool Play) at 10 a.m.

The Hearts' night game will depend on their play tomorrow. A win would seal them as pool champs, and they would play at 8:30 p.m. The championship games will be played Saturday.

Effingham     4     21     8     12     45

Paris     2     9     8     5     24

Effingham: Michael 10, Beals 2, Stephenson 4, Kaufman 3, Zerrusen 22, Field 4

Paris: Lau 2, Milburn 2, Volkmann 8, Brouwer 11, Gladding 1

Effingham     11     17     12     16     56

Decatur Eisenhower     13     7     12     8     40

Effingham: Michael 5, Stephenson 15, Kaufman 14, Robb 2, Zerrusen 13, Steffen 2, Crowell 2, Field 3

Eisenhower: Baltimore 3, Gavin 2, Thomas 2, Thaxton 19, Cook 14

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