STERLING – Sterling’s girls basketball team showed it could hang tough against a heavyweight like Fremd on Friday night.
Winning such a battle? That’s another matter.
Fremd, playing without its top player, took an early punch from the Golden Warriors and then withstood a late charge to post a 57-45 victory in the final game of Day 1 of the 2012 Sterling Shootout.
Stephanie Kester, who led the Warriors with 13 points, didn’t want to hear anything about moral victories.
“I think it showed us what we really can do,” Kester said. “We didn’t want to go into the game like, ‘Oh, we have really tough competition. Who knows what’s going to happen?’ We came out to win.”
Sterling (6-4) jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the first 57 seconds of play, causing Fremd coach Dave Yates to call a timeout. His team responded immediately with a 10-0 run, and the lead grew to 32-20 by halftime.
Kester hit a pair of 3-pointers to open the third quarter, however, and Sterling was within striking distance the bulk of the second half. A three-point play from Kiarra Harris brought the Golden Warriors to within 45-40 with 6:39 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Fremd went on an 8-0 run the next 4 1/2 minutes, however, to again seize control. Senior guard Ashley McConnell scored a pair of baskets and hit a free throw to key the surge.
“Every time it seemed like Sterling made a push, we answered,” Yates said. “To me, that’s a good sign.”
The Vikings (8-2) are still getting used to playing without their top player, Haley Gorecki, a 6-foot sophomore guard who averages 23 points per game and is being recruited by a host of Division-I schools. She has a sprained right ankle and needed crutches to get around Musgrove Fieldhouse.
McConnell, the team’s second-leading scorer at 16 points a game, pumped in a season-high 27 to lead Fremd.
“I think the whole team needed to step up, and we did,” McConnell said. “We made really good cuts and we all saw the floor really well. We’re getting better, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Kaitlyn Bauer finished with 10 points and seven rebounds for Sterling, and Harris chipped in with seven points, seven rebounds and three steals.
“I was impressed by Sterling,” Yates said. “Those kids kept coming after us. They knocked down some big shots to hang around. To our kids’ credit, we did a better job this game of being composed. Even though they made a run on us, we didn’t panic.”
Sterling owned a 24-20 rebounding advantage, but committed 21 turnovers against a harassing Fremd defense, and went to the free-throw line just six times.
“A lot of my pregame speech was about our basketball sense and understanding time and place and things like that,” Sterling coach Julie Schroeder said, “and about executing so we’re at a more even keel. This rollercoaster ride of greatness, down to putting our head down and turning the ball over – those are the kind of things we’re trying to get rid of.
“I felt like we had that less tonight than we have in previous games, which is a good sign, but still too much to beat a good team like Fremd.”