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Girls basketball: Loss to Lutheran put Sterling on winning track

Turning point

(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Sterling sophomore Gabby Sandoval (34) begins to celebrate her Golden Warriors' 47-44 victory over Rochelle for a 3A regional title Thursday at Musgrove Fieldhouse.

It’s fair to say that if the Sterling Golden Warriors hadn’t lost Dec. 29 to Rockford Lutheran, they wouldn’t be playing against the Crusaders today in the semifinal of the 3A Genoa-Kingston Sectional. 

On Dec. 29, the Warriors held a nine-point lead over the Crusaders after three quarters in a loser’s bracket game at the Dixon tournament. 

The Warriors were outscored 19-10 in the final quarter, which forced overtime. Lutheran went on to win 62-59, forcing Sterling into the seventh-place game. 

“I think it was a turning point for our season,” Sterling coach Julie Schroeder said. “The girls learned that day that they have to play the game hard for all four quarters. That game came down to our girls not playing hard in the fourth quarter, and it cost us a win.” 

Since then, Sterling (20-12) is 13-2 and earned a share of the Northern Illinois Big 12 West title. It also fought through an overtime game against Rock Falls in last week’s 3A Sterling Regional semifinal before knocking off top-seeded Rochelle.

The biggest lesson learned is that when the Warriors plays well, they can compete with some of the top teams in the state.

In tonight’s teams’ first matchup, Sterling had trouble guarding the Crusaders’ two star players, Rachel Konieczki and Sam Rundblade. Konieczki scored 24 points, and Rundblade had 18. Lutheran has found a third option in 6-foot, 1-inch freshman Abby Woolacott.

Lutheran (22-6) was tied for 10th in last week’s 3A poll with Burlington Central, which will meet Woodstock Marian in the other semifinal on Tuesday.

Schroeder, who taught at Central before coming to Sterling, knows little about either team other than what she’s read online.

“We scouted Burlington Central on Friday,” Schroeder said. “They are very young team, with most of their starters being sophomores. We haven’t looked too far ahead. You hope to have to worry about scouting on Tuesday.” 

SVM scouts the Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Sectional

When: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday

Where: Genoa-Kingston High School, Genoa

Teams: Burlington Central (25-4), Rockford Lutheran (22-6), Sterling (20-12), Woodstock Marian (16-11)

Players to watch: Kaitlyn Bauer, Sterling jr. F; Alison Colby, Burlington Central so. F; Kiarra Harris, Sterling jr. F: Shelby Holt, Burlington Central fr. G; Rachel Konieczki, Lutheran sr. G; Ellen Koscielniak, Woodstock Marian jr. G; Sam Rundblade, Lutheran sr. F: Shannon Wuensch, Woodstock Marian, sr. F 

Outlook: Burlington Central and Lutheran enter the regional tied for 10th in the AP Poll. Burlington Central, however, needed overtime to beat Plano to win its regional, the Rockets’ first title in 23 years. Lutheran finished third in the Big Northern behind Byron and Oregon. The Crusaders beat Sterling at the Dixon tournament 62-59 in overtime. The Warriors led by nine points after three quarters in that game. Sterling is making its second consecutive appearance in a sectional. Woodstock Marian seems to be a bit of wild card, after knocking off Woodstock North 64-56 to win the Woodstock Regional. 

Favorite: Burlington Central

Dark horse: Sterling

Winner to: Hoffman Estates Supersectional vs. Vernon Hills Sectional winner, 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 25

SVM prediction: Burlington Central

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