Ramsey's Kate Jolliff picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, allowing St. Anthony to expose the difference between Ramsey when she's on the floor and when she's off.
The Rams were hanging around with the top-seeded Bulldogs, trailing by six points in the third quarter, before Jolliff checked out of the game.
A 7-0 run in the next two minutes gave St. Anthony a 13-point lead, 35-22. The Rams only came within six points the rest of the way in the Bulldogs' 56-45 win.
St. Anthony head coach Bart Wiedman called Jolliff one of the best individual players the Bulldogs played against this season. Ramsey wasn't the same when she was out of the game.
“We could focus on (Kayla Zimmerman) and we were able to get the ball inside a little bit more,” Wiedman said. “We were finally coming together and playing great defense.”
Jolliff's absence contributed to St. Anthony's biggest quarter of the game. They scored 18 points in the third quarter to take a 40-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
Zimmerman kick started a last-chance comeback in the fourth quarter. She scored five points, trailing 47-37 to bring the Rams within six points — first, on a steal and breakaway layup, then a 3-pointer.
The Bulldogs answered the challenge, finishing the last 1:30 on an 8-3 run that sealed their spot in today's Class 1A Regional Championship game in Altamont against the Altamont Indians.
Wiedman's players rose to the challenge of filling in the voids left by the absences of Maggie Mumm (strained foot) and Makayla Walsh (illness).
It took some getting used to, Wiedman said; in fact, he said his team was “out of our element” for three of the four quarters Wednesday.
The Bulldogs played uncomfortably against Ramsey's zone defense, but thrived against a man-to-man look because they were able to get the ball inside more often.
“Offensively, we were really stagnant,” Wiedman said. “They came out in a zone, we air balled a couple shots, didn't make some jumpers and weren't penetrating the gaps.”
Megan Nuxoll thrived inside the Ramsey defense, scoring 18 points and grabbing a “ton” of rebounds. Wiedman said Mumm's absence made Nuxoll's performance all the more impressive.
“She did a great job holding down the fort by herself in there,” Wiedman said. “We weren't getting the defense on the weak side, like we normally do, and part of that was from Maggie being gone.”
The Bulldogs managed. They trailed 8-3 early in the first quarter, took their first lead, 14-13, in the second and led by two points at halftime.
Kate Richards led the Bulldogs with 19 points, while Lauren Wendt added 10. Zimmerman scored a game-high 20 points for Ramsey, while Jolliff scored 17.
St. Anthony advances to the regional title game to play National Trail Conference foe Altamont at 7 p.m. today in Altamont. The two teams last played Dec. 9 and St. Anthony won, 46-26.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or email@example.com.
St. Anthony 9 13 18 16 56
Ramsey 11 9 11 14 45
St. Anthony: Gardewine 5, Wendt 10, Nuxoll 18, Richards 19, H. Niebrugge 4
Ramsey: Jolliff 17, Zimmerman 20, M. Kimberlin 7, S. Kimberlin 1