Friday, January 25th, 2008
By Robb Hemmelgarn
St. Marys uses charity stripe to its advantage
  ST. MARYS - While free throws don't exactly bring a crowd to their feet or make the highlight reels during the 11 p.m. sports, more times than not, the menial task has an interesting way of helping to determine the outcome of close contests.
Case in point was last night at Mc-Broom Gymnasium in St. Marys, where the home-standing Lady Roughriders tamed the Van Wert Cougars by a final of 45-35 in a Western Buckeye League victory.
Although red-hot shooting from the field in the second quarter cushioned the lead, in the end, the deal was sealed with precise accuracy from the charity stripe.
After trailing 9-6 at the conclusion of the opening period, the Roughriders were ignited in the second frame by the one-two punch of seniors Lea Mackenbach and Emily Shellabarger. Mackenbach kick-started the stanza with a jump shot, which pulled her team to within a point at 9-8. The Cougars countered with their own two-pointer, but Mackenbach knotted things up with a three-pointer with just over five-and-a-half minutes left in the half.
A few moments later, Shellabarger drained a pair of free throws, and from there, the senior duo single-handedly suffocated Van Wert for the remainder of the period. The Cougars tied the battle at 13 points, but Mackenbach ended the half with three more long balls for 14 total points, while Shellabarger added four more charity tosses to end the half with eight points.
"We started a little flat tonight and realized we needed to become more aggressive offensively," commented Roughrider head coach Tim Niekamp. "Once we got into that rhythm in the second quarter, we seemed to make a lot better choices shooting the ball, and thankfully a lot of those shots fell through for us."
Ahead 26-13, the Roughriders' advantage quickly dwindled to just six points, as Van Wert out-scored them 9-4 in the third period. With the momentum swaying toward the visitors as the final period began, Shellabarger shifted things back in St. Marys' favor with four more free throws, extending her team's lead to 34-24 with 5:32 remaining in the tilt.
The Cougars pulled no closer than seven points the rest of the way, as St. Marys slammed the door shut by chalking up all 15 points in the fourth quarter from the free-throw line.
"They played a lot tighter defense on Lea in the second half, which we expected, but I felt the other girls did an outstanding job in response to that," explained Niekamp. "We were patient with the ball and didn't try to rush a lot of shots. Along with that, we stayed relaxed on defense and things were able to fall into place."
In the victory, Shellabarger closed the game with 17 points, drilling 13 of her 14 free tosses. Although she was held scoreless in three quarters, Mackenbach added 14 points for the game, including four three-pointers. As a team, St. Marys was 21-of-22 from the free-throw line, while the Cougars were nearly equally as impressive by sinking 12 of their 14 tries.
The Roughriders (12-5, 5-2 WBL) are idle until next Thursday when they play host to the Lima Shawnee Indians.
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