BRADEN LAYER Daily News
Effingham Daily News
---- — The Effingham Shootout, with running clocks and rusty summer offenses, allowed defensive-minded St. Anthony coach Bart Wiedman the perfect opportunity on Friday to school his young team on the value of getting stops. Points were at a premium, meaning the importance of a sound defense became even more valuable.
Much to the delight of their coach, the Lady Bulldogs were in lockdown mode defending the basket, picking up two early wins over Mount Olive and Centralia where they gave up 36 points combined.
“No matter who we’ve played at any level, they’ve stepped up and played really, really hard,” Wiedman said.
In the morning game, St. Anthony held Mount Olive without a made field goal in the first half, and surrendered just three by the final buzzer in a 40-11 win.
“We’ve played really at a high level defensively, which is nice,” Wiedman said. “Most of the summer we’ve spent working on our weakness—shooting the basketball.”
Fueled by a hungry defense, St. Anthony found its rhythm at the hoop, coasting to a 15-0 lead to start the game off six points apiece from Megan Nuxoll and Kate Richards and a Makayla Walsh 3-pointer.
By halftime, the Lady Bulldogs had outpaced the overmatched Lady Wildcats to a 31-4 lead, and all four Mount Olive points came at the free throw line. Ten players split playing time for St. Anthony, as Wiedman went deep into his lineup to give his roster some experience.
“My six through ten girls—I played them for about eight or nine minutes straight,” Wiedman said. “We built a big lead, but a lot of that was them sticking the ball in the hole.”
Mount Olive carried only six able-bodied players, allowing St. Anthony to work on its shot selection.
“Last year we took the first shot that was available,” Wiedman said. “Moving the ball (this summer) has been really nice. We’ve moved the ball a lot more.”
Richards scored a game-high 12 points, Nuxoll closed with 11 and Hunter Niebrugge added six.
The Lady Bulldogs faced a stiffer test in their second game, taking on Class 3A foe Centralia. After surrendering eight points in the initial four minutes, it took the Annies 25 more minutes before they doubled their score, and St. Anthony pulled away for a 30-25 win.
The increase in intensity allowed St. Anthony to overcome an early five-point deficit and turn it into a seven point lead in the second half. Trailing by two at the break, the Lady Bulldogs erupted for six straight points to open the final half, the last two off a Nuxoll putback, to create a lead they wouldn’t surrender.
“We ran the floor really well to get baskets,” Wiedman said. “Those are things we just weren’t that good at last year, finding ways to score.”
The Lady Bulldogs found enough scoring down the stretch. Walsh’s steal and layup with 2:15 left to play gave St. Anthony a 30-23 lead. Centralia’s Abbey Holtkamp scored her 11th and 12th points on the next trip down the floor, but the Bulldogs killed the rest of the clock.
Maggie Mumm led St. Anthony with eight points, Niebrugge scored six and Richards closed with five.
Capping off the day was a 3:00 p.m. showdown with Salem, the third game in four hours for Wiedman’s group.
The defense was understandably tired, allowing 36 points in a six-point defeat, 36-30.
St. Anthony returns to action in the Effingham Shootout today at 9 a.m. against Rochester.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.