Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


January 31, 2014

Hearts come back, clinch Apollo crown

Effingham 24-0 on season, 8-0 in conference

EFFINGHAM — It took a gut-check effort for the Effingham Lady Hearts, but Effingham finished off a second-half comeback in a 42-39 win over Mt. Zion, ran its unbeaten streak to 24 and clinched the Apollo Conference in one fell swoop.

Effingham trailed 25-16 at the half and 29-20 with 3:15 to play, but came roaring back with a 16-2 run to take the lead and downed the Lady Braves.

The Lady Hearts are now 8-0 in the Apollo, with second-place Mt. Zion and Salem each with three losses.

"Mt. Zion brought it, and we just kept battling and battling," said Effingham coach Jeff Schafer. "That's why this game was so huge."

Effingham started off slow, scoring just four points in the first quarter as they fell behind 8-4.

Things didn't improve in the second, as Mt. Zion pushed its elad to nine after Effingham cut it to one midway through the quarter.

The Lady Hearts hit just one 3-pointer, usually a staple of their offense, in the first half as Mt. Zion defended them well.

"I still thought we got a lot of decent shots, but we weren't strong with the basketball," Schafer said. "The officials let us play, it was knock down, drag out, and it was physical."

The second half looked like more of the same early, with Mt. Zion holding the Hearts at bay even as Effingham dominated the glass on both ends. Brianna Dick hit a layup with 3:15 left in the third to push the lead to 29-20.

Back came Effingham, with Jantzen Michael hitting two free throws and then Josie Zerrusen took over. She hit a three with 1:30, hit two free throws, and after Mt. Zion went back up four, hit a buzzer-beating three from the right corner to make it 31-30 Mt. Zion going to the fourth.

"That was huge, they kept asking for the out of bounds and I told them to be patient, because I had to read the defense and see if we would get that (shot for Zerrusen) or not," Schafer said.

Effingham held Mt. Zion scoreless until the 2:15 mark of the fourth quarter, as Stephanie Robb, Lauren Stephenson and Michael put Effingham up 38-31.

Tori Johnson and Maddie Rothrock hit threes for Mt. Zion to cut the lead back to 40-39, keeping the game tight.

Stephenson and Michael hit four free throws down the stretch, but the Hearts missed a few more, leaving the door open for Mt. Zion one last time. Brittany Marquardt had a look for a game-tying three, but missed with seconds left and Effingham held on.

Zerrusen finished with 17 points, all in the first three quarters, while Michael added 10 and Stephenson had nine.

"(Zerrusen) stepped up like an All-Stater should," Schafer said. "I'm gonna guess that most people in the building thought this was the night we were going down. They just don't quit."

Robb had eight rebounds and four points, while Caitlin Kaufman grabbed eight rebounds as well.

Effingham was without Maddy Field, who hurt her elbow and wrist in the junior varsity game, and also were missing Marranda Steffen.

Still, the streak lives on for at least another day, with Effingham facing Class 2A's fourth-ranked team, the Teutopolis Lady Shoes at home tonight. Schafer didn't buy that his team was looking ahead to the Teutopolis game, although acknowledged Thursday's game with Mt. Zion was more than it appeared on the schedule.

"I don't think so, I just think Mt. Zion just came out with intensity, we knew it was a trap game between Salem and Teutopolis," Schafer said. "I know Laurie (Thompson) will use it to help them, I know we'll use it to help us no matter the outcome. Whoever has the better offensive night will probably win.

Mt. Zion     8     17     6     8     39

Effingham     4     12     14     12     42

Mt. Zion: Marquardt 3, Rothrock 10, McElyea 4, Johnson 16, Propst 2, Dick 4

Effingham: Michael 10, Totten 2, Stephenson 9, Robb 4, Zerrusen 17


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