The Elgin Public/Pope John and Ewing basketball fans were treated to two stellar hoop contests Monday evening at Pope John Gym.
In the varsity opener, Ewing rallied to defeat EPPJ, 54-52.
“I was really happy we executed down the stretch,” stated Ewing girls coach Greg Appleby. “We had a little trouble lately of finishing the last four minutes of ball games. It was an up-and-down game, both ways. We needed that win. We lost a tough one in the conference tournament last week. I’m proud of the girls for the way they came back.”
The Lady Wolfpack overcame a sluggish start to take a 3-point advantage into the half.
Trailing 4-3, the Lady Tigers used a 9-0 run to claim a 12-4 lead. EPPJ came storming back with a 7-0 run to end the opening quarter.
“When we bring the energy, both offensively and defensively, we do good things,” commented EPPJ girls coach Randy Eisenhauer. “We got off to a slow start and gave up layups every time down the floor. We talked about battling and keeping that energy high. We had times we did that, and then we had times where we struggled.”
After trading buckets, the Lady Wolfpack used an 11-4 run and took a 29-26 lead into the locker room.
Despite a sloppy third quarter and its senior leadership sitting on the bench with four fouls, EPPJ extended its lead to 4. The Lady Wolfpack committed seven turnovers and Allyson Wemhoff had to sit and watch the game from the sidelines after picking up her fourth foul.
Trailing 34-31, several role players stepped up for EPPJ (13-6) during a 9-0 run. Kaylee Ramold tallied two layups, Kayce Kallhoff drilled a triple and Lexi Bode capped the run with a layup.
“We talk about that in practice, you never know who it’s going to be and everybody needs to step up to fill their roles and do what they’re supposed to do,” Eisenhauer noted. “We had those turnovers in the third and then Ally (Wemhoff), our floor leader both offensively and defensively, went out. But all the girls said in the huddle everyone step up and do a little more. They did and did quite well until Ally got back in the game.”
The fourth was a back-and-forth battle between the two squads, but when the dust had settled, the Lady Tigers emerged as the victor. Knotted at 43, Ewing junior Ashley Koenig netted 9 of the final 11 points for the orange and black.
“We were able to get the ball to Ashley Koenig in the middle of their zone and she was able to attack the basket,” Appleby said. “That was huge.”
Trailing, by 4 late in the contest, Grace Rittscher threw up a desperation triple and got the friendly roll to cut the deficit to 1 with two seconds remaining.
After a Koenig miss on her second free throw, Rittscher full-court heavy was off the mark.
“It was a game of runs with a couple of teams that are really comfortable with playing up and down basketball,” Appleby spoke. “That probably led to some of the runs. We had one early, then they had one. After our first run, I thought they dominated the rest of the first half. We were able to hang close enough to hang in there in the second half to put a run together.”
A key to the win was Ewing's (15-4) ability to cash in on extra opportunities. The Lady Tigers scored 16 second-chance points off of 33 rebounds, while EPPJ had 15 points off of 36 boards.
“We were good on the offensive glass, and not as good on the defensive class,” Appleby continued. “There was a lot of offensive rebounds in that game. They had a lot of second-chance points too. Their’s were more of getting a whole other possession and they knocked down a 15-footer or a 3. Rebounding was huge in that ball game. We got better in the fourth quarter on the defensive end to hold them off.”
Koenig led the way with a double-double. Koenig scored 16 of her 20 points in the second half, to go along with her 10 rebounds and three steals. Sidney Stallbaum poured in 14 points and nine rebounds. Brenna Wagner added 9 points, Tiana Thramer contributed 7 points and Miranda Summers pitched in 4 points.
The Lady Wolfpack was led by Rittscher 17 points. Kirsten Krebs tallied 12 points, Kallhoff accounted for 6 points, Wemhoff and Ally Selting each netted 5 points, Ramold recorded 4 points and Bode had 3 points.
“There were little things we didn’t do right to get the win, Eisenhauer remarked. “Give Ewing credit, they came and battled in that fourth quarter. We had a 4 or 5 point lead in the fourth quarter, but we couldn’t get any shots to fall to start the fourth, and they did. I was proud the girls didn’t quit and they kept battling.”
In the boys contest, the Tigers overcame a big first-half deficit to defeat EPPJ, 49-47.
“I’m proud of these guys,” commented Ewing boys coach Brett Kaczor. “We’ve been in opportunities like this and we’ve squandered them. We came out tonight down 44-35 and finished the game on a 14-3 run to come out. I’m super proud for all we’ve been through the past five or six years and not getting very many wins. It’s pretty easy to lay down when you’re down 10 with a couple of minutes left. We kept fighting and made enough plays and shots to get the W.”
After battling to a 14-all tie in the first quarter, EPPJ pulled away to take a 10-point advantage into the break.
Following Wyatt Wagner's layup, which gave the Tigers a 18-17 lead, the Wolfpack ended the half on a 20-9 run.
Both teams were plagued by turnovers in the third, as both squads combined for 12 turnovers in the third.
After going the first half of the fourth without a point, the Tigers offense exploded with a 9-0 run to take a 47-45 lead. Xavier Hobbs netted 5 points and Dalton Rotherham added 4 points in the run.
“We took advantage of our opportunities,” Kaczor noted. “We knew all game they were going to take away Joey (Wright) all game long and they did a nice job surrounding him and making it tough on him to score. We told them to keep fighting and move to find open lanes. Those guys knocked down shots and got to the open area. We’ve told them since day one to play to their strengths and it finally clicked today in the fourth quarter.”
With a minute remaining, Adam Dreger converted a layup to tie the game at 47.
Hobbs then drilled two freebies to take a 2-point lead with 24 seconds remaining.
The Wolfpack had numerous chances to tie or take the lead, but failed to find the bottom of the net and gave Ewing (2-16) its second win of the season.
Kyle Schumacher paced EPPJ (1-16) with 22 points, two assists and five boards. Conor Ramold accumulated 9 points and five rebounds, Dreger netted 8 points, R.J. Lierman recorded 6 points, six assists and four rebounds and Layne Bullock had 2 points.
Hobbs led the Tigers with 17 points. Ryan Brummels tallied 10 points, while Joey Wright and Rotherham each scored 6 points.
Ewing hosts Clearwater/Orchard today.
“We’re hoping it carries over against a very good OC team at home,” Kaczor stated. “A win always helps. You can say however much you want about playing teams close in a loss, but the momentum of win is huge. Who knows, you put together on the right night and somebody doesn’t come ready to play, you might pull off the upset of the year. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
The Lady Tigers tipoff at 6:15 p.m.
“It’s good we come back and play tomorrow night against OC,” Appleby spoke. “We need to get back in the gym and continue to get better at the things we need to work on. We took better care of the basketball tonight and our press break was really good. We got three games this week and I think it will be a good prep for sub-districts next week.”
EPPJ travels to Bartlett to take on Chambers/Wheeler Central today at 5 p.m.
“That’s NVC for you,” Eisenhauer concluded. “We got seven, or eight, quality teams that can play any night. We went from North Central (in the NVC quarterfinals) to Ewing and now CWC. We’re going to have to bring that energy against CWC. They’re one of the top teams in our conference and the girls have to put this one in the back of their head. Forget about it and come out against CWC.”