Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Sports

February 28, 2014

Tough tests continue for Teutopolis at state

Lady Shoes face #1 Champaign St. Thomas More

NORMAL — Madeline Hartke, Teutopolis’ leading scorer, missed the last two games of the regular season and didn’t play in the Shoes’ regional opener against Vandalia.

Tendinitis in her left heel kept her on the bench until the third quarter of the Shoes’ regional championship win against Greenville on Feb. 13, when Teutopolis head coach Laurie Thompson warned her, “don’t come out crazy on me.”

Hartke score a calm nine points in the Shoes’ 54-43 win, but launched into orbit ever since.

She finished with a double-double in two of the last three games, including a 20-point and 15-rebound performance in the Shoes’ sectional championship victory against Mt. Carmel. She scored 20 points in each of the last two games.

“She works hard, everybody knows that, and that’s what is making her stand out right now,” Thompson said. “We don’t have this 20-point scorer, but there are things Madeline brings — the rebounds — that are crucial to the rest of the team.”

Hartke, a Maryville commit, averages a team-high 12.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. The senior may face her toughest challenge today in trying to score around Champaign St. Thomas More’s Tori McCoy, the 6-foot-4 forward ranked 10th on ESPN’s 2016 recruiting rankings.

There isn’t time to invent a shrink ray, so Hartke and her teammates are practicing ways of getting around McCoy’s post presence.

“We’ll look to get her out of sync,” Hartke said. “If she’s out of her line, we’ll go back door on her. Or we’ll try to pull up early, before you even reach her.”

McCoy leads Class 2A’s top-ranked St. Thomas More Sabers (31-2) in scoring and rebounding, averaging 18.7 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. She shoots about 60 percent from the floor, meaning the Shoes’ defense will be just as important against her.

Tuesday was the first day Thompson and her coaches began studying film of McCoy and her teammates, after keeping all of their attention on Monday’s Breese Central game, and Thompson said the Sabers are much more than a one-woman show.

McCoy is four inches taller than any Teutopolis player and her partner in the post, Alexa Wallen, is listed as a six-footer. Thompson plans to make the best of the athletes she has, including starting center Haley Giles.

Giles is the Shoes’ third leading rebounder, averaging 3.2 per game, and tallest player. She knows she will be a part of Thompson’s defensive formula.

“I’m definitely going to need some help-side (defense), but we’re going to try to get her in foul trouble and hopefully get her out of the game to make it easier for us,” Giles said.

Hartke said there are ways the third-ranked Shoes (28-5) will try to get inside McCoy’s head when she doesn’t have the ball, like “scooting” her off of her line in the post.

But as much of a height advantage as the Sabers have with McCoy, Thompson said they’re a running team that likes to score quick points off of their defense — similar to the way the Shoes play, from time to time.

Thompson slowed her offense down in the sectional championship, knowing that they would otherwise be playing into the hands of Mt. Carmel and star guard Tyra Buss.

She said she’s prepared to do it Friday against St. Thomas More and its quick guard, Randa Harshbarger.

“We can’t get into a running game, if we can’t outrun them,” Thompson said. “If I feel like I’m with them, we’ll do it a little bit and if not, I’ll try to be the patient approach.”

Senior guard Cierra Thompson compared Harshbarger to Buss, a 47-point per game scorer that the Shoes limited to 15 points in their sectional win, but said the Sabers’ senior is more of a driver.

Their success against Buss’ Mt. Carmel team and a previously unbeaten Breese Central team, on Monday, gives Teutopolis the confidence to compete against the highly-touted Sabers, who’ve been the top-ranked team in Class 2A from the first poll of the season.

“It helps a lot that we know we can do it,” senior Jessica Schumacher said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Tori McCoy, Tyra Buss or any other girl. It’s just another team.”

That’s the attitude Thompson wants her team to take into the game, knowing the Sabers are tasked with stopping Hartke, Thompson, Schumacher and the rest of the team.

Cierra Thompson averages 10.7 points per game and leads the team with 63 assists this season. She makes about 40 percent of her 3-pointers.

“We have to keep them in check, but they have to keep us in check,” Laurie Thompson said. “We still have to be the aggressive offense and take it to them. We can’t back off.”

Teutopolis is making its first appearance at the state final four since finishing third in 2008, while St. Thomas More is returning after a second-place finish last season.

The Shoes are bringing a lot of confidence into the semifinal, which starts at 6:30 p.m. today at Illinois State’s Redbird Arena in Normal, especially after avenging a mid-season loss to Breese Central in their Super-Sectional triumph.

But they don’t plan on settling after the Breese Central win. They know their season will end Saturday, but it’s up to them which trophy they bring home.

“We’re ready for it,” Cierra Thompson said. “We got where we wanted to be, which we waited four years for, but we know we still have two games we want to win and intend to win.”

The winner plays in the Class 2A state championship game at 8:15 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Friday’s last game, between Prophetstown (30-2) and Elmhurst IC Catholic (25-6).

Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or alex.mcnamee@effinghamdailynews.com.

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