Lauren Stephenson is making her case for the best sixth man.
“My sophomore year, the team didn't understand everyone's role,” said Stephenson. “I knew going into my senior year that I'd be that sixth man. The sooner I'd accept my role, the better I could help the team.”
Despite leading scorer Caitlin Kaufman not making a shot from the field, Stephenson made a huge impact with a game high 18 points off the bench, making seven of nine shots.
Along with Stephenson's big night, Jantzen Michael added 17 points, while Josie Zerrusen finished with 13 points and six rebounds to lead Effingham, the No. 11 ranked team in Class 3A, to a 58-38 win over Charleston at Baker Gym.
“She's just one of our best players,” said Effingham coach Jeff Schafer. “I don't know why my gut doesn't start her. It's hard to look her in the eye and not start her, but she has so much success in that role. Last year coming off the bench was Jantzen's role and she accepted it. To have a kid like Lauren, who's not selfish, is great for this team. She just wants to win.”
For Charleston, it was their second straight loss at home as the team fell to Mount Zion last Thursday to fall to 10-8 overall and 3-3 in the Apollo Conference.
Morgan Sherwood led Charleston with 17 points and seven rebounds.
“We have played two very good basketball teams while being shorthanded,” said Charleston coach Jeff Miller. “We have to cut down on the turnovers. You aren't going to be in too many ball game with 11 unforced turnovers in the first half.”
For a moment it looked like things were going Charleston's way when Kaufman picked up her second foul with 6:12 left to play, but Zerrusen converted a rare four-point play, and something clicked for the Lady Hearts on both sides of the ball.
Effingham finished the first quarter with an 18-2 run, with seven points coming from both Zerrusen and Stephenson. The defense cranked up as well as Charleston finished the quarter by missing their last eight shots, while committing four turnovers.
“Josie made some big plays, and it translated over to everyone else,” said Schafer. “We got off to a slow start, and without Caitlin scoring as well. That's why we are 16-0 though. It's because of our depth. It makes it hard on who to stop.”
Charleston's woes continued over as Haiven Bowersock's 3-point shot with 3:43 left in the half was the first field goal and the lead grew to 24-8.
Charleston was able to cut down the lead to 12 points, but Effingham ended the quarter with an 11-2 run to lead 35-14 at halftime.
Of course, six of those 11 points came from the hustling Stephenson.
“It just depends what the team needs,” said Stephenson. “I may need to be out playing defense some nights. It just depends. When we played Cahokia the other night, Josie (Zerrusen) erupted for 30 points, and we looked for her. You never know when someone on this team will have a big night.”
Only two Lady Hearts scored in the third quarter, but Michael provided the lift by scoring eight of the 11 third quarter points. Charleston trailed by as many as 23 points, but were able to cut it as close as 43-29.
Effingham cruised in the fourth quarter as the team improved to 16-0 on the season and 5-0 in the conference.
“I thought the key was the start Josie had,” said Schafer. “She made some big hustle plays, and I felt that everybody watched her, and they started getting on the board. The intensity level carried over from player to player.”
The Lady Hearts will look to keep their perfect record alive tonight, traveling to Newton in a makeup game. Effingham bested Newton 47-29 back in November at Newton's Bob Kerans Tournament.
Effingham 18 17 11 12 58
Charleston 5 9 15 11 38
Effingham: Michael 17, Kaufman 2, Robb 6, Zerrusen 13, Stephenson 18, Field 2
Charleston: Crowder 6, Miller 3, Gossett 1, Sherwood 17, Bowersock 3, Rennels 4, O'Dell 4
Lauren Stephenson is making her case for the best sixth man.
Illini coach Groce stops in Effingham; Speech focuses on team building
A crowded ballroom met for "An Evening with John Groce” Thursday inside the Thelma Keller Convention Center.
Groce has been the men's basketball coach at the University of Illinois since March 2012. Prior to that, he was the head coach at Ohio University, where he led the Bobcats to a Sweet 16 appearance in 2012.
His speech was focused on team building and Groce said it was the a variation of the same speech he will give Sunday evening at his beginning-of-the-year players' meeting.
St. Anthony second at Charleston scramble
In their first meet of the season, the St. Anthony Bulldogs came out firing, taking second place at the Charleston Invitational Thursday afternoon.
The tournament was a scramble at Charleston Country Club, and the hosting Trojans took home the tournament with a combined score of 72. St. Anthony was five shots back, shooting a 77. Effingham finished fourth with an 88, and Teutopolis took ninth with a 98.
Czachorski: Lunt the right man at QB
There haven't been many times I've put pen to paper — or I guess more fittingly finger to keyboard — and written about the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Part of it is due to their football team's struggles, as it's hard to have an opinion on them outside of "man, they went 1-7 in the Big 10 last year" or "I remember that one time they went to the Rose Bowl, but that's about it." Part of it is staying in my wheelhouse, which is MAC football and my alma mater Central Michigan Chippewas, a topic that doesn't concern many, if any, around here.
Neoga prepares for upcoming volleyball season
Another area team finds themselves with a new coach holding the clipboard this season.
Susan Hutchinson is the new volleyball coach for the Neoga Indians, but she isn't new to the game of volleyball. Hutchinson coached at Mattoon for seven years when they were still in the Big 12 Conference. She said her new players had to get used to her coaching style very quickly.
Bulldogs fifth at ISU
St. Anthony took to the links for the second-straight day and had a strong showing at the Raider/Redbird Classic.
The Bulldogs finished fifth among a 20-team field, shooting a 318. East Peoria shot a 312 to win it, Normal U-High and Lincoln each shot 315s with Normal winning the tie-breaker, and Bloomington took fourth with a 317.
St. Anthony will lead with speed
For the last five years, Eric Morales has been the assistant coach of the St. Anthony Bulldogs soccer team. But this season he will have his chance at the helm and try to help lead the Bulldogs to their first regional title since 2010.
St. Anthony is missing six seniors from last years team, including its leading goal scorer and starting goalie.
Flaming Hearts win St. Anthony Invitational
The Flaming Hearts of Effingham were the overall winners and also had the medalist. Effingham shot a team score of 312 to beat the host Bulldogs by nine shots. Hearts senior Jackson Wendling finished with a 72 to take medalist honors.
Teutopolis takes opener against St. Thomas More
Teutopolis took the course with a new coach and four players, but as coach Becky Probst said, it takes four to score.
And those four Lady Shoes took their first match of the year, topping Champaign St. Thomas More 216-227 in both teams' openers at Cardinal Golf Course in Effingham.
Time to tee off, golf season starts fall sports campaign today
The fall sports campaign kicks off in earnest Monday afternoon, with the first area varsity contests being held in Windsor and Effingham this afternoon.
The St. Anthony Invitational boys golf tournament will be held at Fox Prairie Golf Course at 1 p.m. in Windsor, while the Teutopolis Lady Shoes host St. Thomas More at Cardinal Golf Course at 4 p.m.
Flaming Hearts' flexibility a plus; Effingham prepping for upcoming soccer season
Three days into the practice season, Effingham soccer coach Aaron Witges sees a lot of flexibility.
It was something his squad had last year, with 10 seniors but young players forcing their way into the lineup as well.
Coming off a 10-8-3 season, some of those young players will find themselves in new positions for the Flaming Hearts this season.
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- Illini coach Groce stops in Effingham; Speech focuses on team building