BRADEN LAYER Daily news
Effingham Daily News
---- — Day one of the Effingham Shootout girls basketball tournament featured a steady dose of high school action, culminating in a 5:30 p.m. matchup between the host Hearts and Teutopolis Lady Shoes. Fierce rivals during the regular season, Thursday’s tournament game was instead a chance to work out the summer kinks and grow as respective units.
“I’m playing everyone equally,” Lady Shoes coach Laurie Thompson said. “That’s why we’re here. They know that.”
Despite focusing on the fundamentals, the score was still kept, and the reigning Newton Sectional champs took advantage. Teutopolis jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes and never trailed in a 42-31 win over Effingham that emphasized coaching and a steady rotation from the benches.
“I was disappointed with our intensity in the first half,” Hearts coach Jeff Schafer said. “They were more aggressive and intense.”
Returning all five starters, and their entire roster, the Lady Shoes didn’t have any issues forcing turnovers. Teutopolis used its aggressive nature to step in front of a number of Effingham passes that led to easy layups on the other end.
“Defensively, I like the things that we’re doing,” Thompson said. “A couple times we had some breakdowns.”
Leading 28-14 at the half, the Lady Shoes fell victim to an 3-point barrage after the break. Effingham’s Caitlin Kaufman opened the action with back-to-back treys, and Josie Zerrusen’s 3-ball cut the lead to 30-23.
Zerrusen turned in a 3-point play the hard way the next trip down the floor, closing Teutopolis’ lead to four.
“We can’t just play when we make shots,” Schafer said.
“We got some shots to go down, all of a sudden we play with a lot more Heart, a lot more intensity.”
The Lady Shoes were limited to 14 points in the second half, but Chelsey Hardiek’s team-high nine points, including four after the break, were enough to pull away for the 11-point win.
Thompson was not surprised by her team’s effort on the defensive end, as they’ve had plenty of experience, advancing all the way to the Class 2A Salem Super-Section this past winter before falling to Nashville.
Offensively, however, Thompson wants to see more desire from her team.
“I’m still not liking my offense,” she said. “I want everybody looking to score. I want individuals to say, ‘I’m a scorer, I’m a threat,’ and do it. We’re just not looking to be aggressive all the time.”
On top of Hardiek’s big effort, Madeline Hartke chipped in with six points and Cierra Thompson scored four from her point guard position.
For the Hearts, their summer schedule has been focused on developing a more stable backcourt following a record-breaking 26-4 season and the departure of Kelli Utz. Utz was the steam behind the Effingham engine last season, and Schafer said his squad is trying out a number of combinations to find the solution.
“We’ve just got to keep experimenting, try to find the right spots,” he said. “You wouldn’t think, returning nine of our top 10 players, that it would be tough. But (Kelli’s) gone, she was a great player for us. These other players have to start performing.”
Lauren Stephenson took over the point guard duties for much of the game against Teutopolis, and Staser said Jantzen Michael has played some earlier this summer, allowing Josie Zerrusen and Caitlin Kaufman to excel in their roles off the ball.
“My goal is for them to get better game by game,” Schafer said. “Part of this summer is to break them down from what we did last year, realize that nobody gives a crap that we won 26 games.”
Kaufman scored a game-high 13 points for the Hearts, while Zerrusen closed at 11.
Effingham won its first two games of the day over Mount Zion and Mount Olive.
“In the two games earlier this morning, we played so much better than we have this summer,” Schafer said. “How we played three weeks ago and how we played today, we’re doing a lot better.”
Effingham’s second day of the tournament begins today at 3:50 p.m. against Newton.
Teutopolis will take on Salem today 11 a.m.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at email@example.com