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Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

St. Marys hangs tough with Indian Lake

By Gary R. Rasberry

St. Marys' Steph Platt scores in front of an Indian Lake defender during their g. . .

ST. MARYS - The St. Marys Roughriders had a daunting task on Tuesday night at McBroom Gymnasium, facing state-ranked and undefeated Indian Lake along with its two 1,000-point scorers in Erin Nelson and Jenna Smith.
The Roughriders scored the first seven points of the game and led by seven at the half, but the Lakers found their stroke in the second half, outscoring the Roughriders 23-10 in the final two quarters to escape Auglaize County with a 38-32 win.
Indian Lake, ranked second in last week's Division II Associated Press state poll, goes to 17-0 on the season while St. Marys drops to 6-10.
Roughriders coach Tim Niekamp was proud of how his team battled with the Lakers.
"It was a great atmosphere. A great environment," said Niekamp. "That's why you play the game, to get in front of the crowd and hear people react to every call, bump and shot."
The start of the game saw St. Marys use a lob pass underneath to either Emily Shellabarger or Steph Platt resulting in easy baskets. When the inside was blocked up, Lea Mackenbach, the area's top three-point shooter, drilled a pair of treys that allowed the Roughriders to lead 10-2 with 31/2 minutes to go in the first stanza.
"We executed the high-low and other things on offense well," said Niekamp. "We got them into (playing) a zone. We didn't attack the zone the first few times. Instead of creating turnovers, we decided to pull it out a bit."
Defensively, the Lakers were stymied early by the Roughriders' physical play.
"We knew coming over here that it was going to be a physical contest," said Lakers coach Mike Pequignot. "We knew St. Marys was a quality team. The first half we didn't respond well to physical play. In the second half, I thought we were able to step up."
St. Marys got the lead up to 10 points early in the second quarter, only to see the Lakers make their way back into the game. Smith nailed a three-pointer to close the gap to 19-15, but the Roughriders got another trey from Mackenbach to take a 22-15 lead at the half.
Indian Lake outscored St. Marys 10-6 in the quarter to see the Roughriders' lead cut to 28-25 going into the fourth quarter.
"At halftime we made a couple adjustments," said Pequignot. "One key was we started playing behind in the post instead of fronting. Our backside help in the first half wasn't getting there to close off the lob passes into the post. That was an adjustment that helped us. Also, we were able to get some key buckets at the end of the third quarter and our overall intensity picked up."
Smith, who earlier in the first half broke the Indian Lake career scoring record, quickly tied things up at 28-all with another three-pointer to start the fourth quarter. Kori Howell hit two-of-three free throws with five minutes left to make it 30-28, but Nelson quickly gave the Lakers their first lead with a trey with 4:50 to go making it 31-30.
After the teams traded turnovers, Platt sank both of her free throws with 4:07 left to give St. Marys what would be its last lead at 32-31. Smith bombed another trey with 3:49 to go to put the Lakers up for good at 34-32.
After St. Marys missed a shot on its next trip down the floor, the Lakers began to pass the ball around. St. Marys, which entered the quarter with just two team fouls, was forced to foul putting the Lakers in the bonus. When Indian Lake finally was put in the bonus at the free-throw line, the game clock was down to 44.2 seconds.
Indian Lake went on to make four-of-six from the charity stripe down the stretch to ice the game for the Lakers.
Smith paced all players with a 7-of-13 night from the field - 5-of-8 from beyond the three-point line - for 23 points. Nelson added nine points.
"They are good. You don't get 1,000 points by accident," said Niekamp of Nelson and Smith. "We had a one-day gameplan since we played Saturday and watched them once. We didn't want to junk defense them. We felt we could contain them enough with our man-to-man by identifying the shooters and helping. Kids played with a lot of passion and pride. They really did."
Platt paced the Roughriders with 13 points, including a perfect 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. Mackenbach added nine with Shellabarger pulling down a game-best 11 rebounds.
St. Marys is back in action on Thursday, hosting Kenton in Western Buckeye League action at McBroom Gymnasium.
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