STERLING – Bunnies, in the literal sense, are cute and cuddly. In the figurative, basketball sense, they're about as ugly as it gets when mishandled.
The Sterling Golden Warriors missed a few zero-footers early and more late, while Sherrard was knocking down just about every shot in sight en route to a 64-48 victory in a Sauk Valley Shootout game Tuesday at Musgrove Fieldhouse.
"Mentally, we weren't ready to play, and physically we weren't there," admitted Sterling junior post Kiarra Harris, who scored nine points and grabbed a team-high five rebounds. "Our heads weren't in the game."
The Tigers hit 14 of their first 18 shots. Senior Carly Adams, who tied teammate Shelby Calderone with a game-high 15 points, hit two 3s and scored 10 points in the first period.
"It feels awesome, and it's a big momentum swing for the team to hit some 3-pointers early in the game," Adams said. "My teammates work really hard to get me open. I'm really grateful for them, and I returned the favor by knocking some 3s down."
"We were just playing timid," said Sterling senior Stephanie Kester, who scored nine points. "We weren't playing our game, and we let them run on us."
Sherrard (2-0) jumped out to an 18-7 lead, but Sterling junior Raquel Romano shot 3-for-4 from beyond the arc in the first period to keep Sterling close at 24-18 after one. But the Tigers rattled off a 9-0 run to start the second and built a 49-28 lead at the half – the very score by which it beat Rock Falls on Monday.
"I knew [Sterling was] a team that wanted to get up and down," Sherrard coach Doug Swanson said. "We're not a very deep team, but our top six or seven can run the floor. So if the chance was there, we were going to take the chance to get the easy basket. The girls kind of settled in then, and we were able to build off a great start."
"They hit a lot of shots early because we didn't defend the way we wanted to," Sterling coach Julie Schroeder said. "And our kids didn't really bounce back they way I wanted them to."
That is, until late in the third period. But while the effort was better, the finishing touches were still missing for the most part. Harris capped a 6-0 Sterling run that made it 59-40 by getting a shot to fall by going high off glass as she was being pushed behind the backboard by Calderone. While Harris couldn't complete the three-point play, she hoped the athletic bucket would inspire her teammates.
"That boosted me up, and I just tried to boost my team up," Harris said.
But Sterling went the next 5 minutes without a hoop. After coming up with a steal after Sherrard rebounded Harris' free-throw miss, Taylor Olsen missed a gimme and put her hands around her head in disbelief. But after Sterling was rewarded the team rebound, Gabby Sandoval and McKenna Pearson missed two more bunnies.
Senior Bailey Oetting led Sterling with 12 points, six of them coming in the fourth quarter, which Sterling ended on an 8-0 run.
"We got better in the second half," Schroeder said. "When you're down 25 or whatever, it's tough to play hard again. But I really felt like our kids did that."
Star of the game: Carly Adams, Sherrard, 15 points (all in first half), 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Key performers: Bailey Oetting, Sterling, team-high 12 points, 4 rebounds; Kiarra Harris, Sterling, 9 points, 5 rebounds; Shelby Calderone, Sherrard, 15 points, 5 rebounds; Erin Barton, Sherrard, 9 points, 6 assists
Up next: Sterling at Dixon, 7:30 p.m. Thursday