DIXON – For the first 8 minutes of Wednesday’s 3A Dixon Regional semifinal, Sterling coach Taylor Jackson saw her team do everything it needed to do to stay close and possibly upset Rockford Lutheran.
Then, the wheels fell off on the offensive end for the Golden Warriors. Sterling struggled offensively in a season-ending 58-40 loss to the Crusaders after entering the second quarter trailing 22-18.
“We grew impatient offensively. We started to force things that weren’t there,” Jackson said. “I thought we rushed a little bit more than we needed to. And defensively, I thought we lost a little bit of our edge, and that’s a credit to Lutheran.”
Sterling sophomore Grace Gould hit her first four shots for nine points in the first quarter to keep the Warriors close, but Lutheran’s dynamic duo of Ambranette Storr and Madison Davis combined for 17 points in the opening 8 minutes.
“I had a lot of adrenaline going into this one,” Gould said. “I was really excited and very confident we would be able to get off to a good start.”
Lutheran (20-10) extended its lead to double digits at 32-22 with 3:15 to go in the second quarter, and the Crusaders led 35-22 at halftime. Sterling (12-20) shot just 2-for-15 from the field in the second on its way to being outscored 13-4.
A 33-percent (10-for-30) performance from the floor in the first half, coupled with 11 turnovers, drastically damaged the Warriors’ chances of a comeback.
“I thought our defense after the first 5 minutes of the game was on point,” Lutheran coach Joni Carlson said. “We knew 2 [Josi Borum] and 12 [Brooklyn Borum] were threats of theirs, and 5 [Grace Gould] had a nice half. In the second half, our girls did a nice job on everybody.”
The Crusaders were able to extend their advantage to 48-29 after three, as the Warriors couldn’t take the lid off the basket. Sterling entered the bonus with 7:09 remaining and sunk 5 of 8 shots from the free-throw line, but never snuck back into striking distance.
Lutheran advances to play regional host and Big Northern rival Dixon for the regional crown on Friday. The Crusaders shot 42 percent (22-for-53) for the game, as Storr led the way with 23 points. The junior forward stands just 5-foot-9, but uses a plethora of crafty moves to make space on the interior.
“I know how to use my body when I get in the lane on drives,” Storr said. “I know how to position for rebounds because I have a younger brother who’s 6-foot-4, and we always play against each other.”
Storr also had two rebounds and recorded team highs with three assists and four steals. Davis chipped in 17 points for Lutheran.
Sterling shot just 31 percent (16-for-52) from the field, including 22 percent (8-for-37) over the final three quarters of play. The Warriors made just 1 of 10 3-point attempts.
Grace Gould led the way with 15 points and four rebounds. Gretchen Gould added eight points and five rebounds for Sterling, while Josi Borum finished with six points and grabbed a team-high 10 boards.
3A Dixon Regional semifinal
Rockford Lutheran 58, Sterling 40
Star of the game: Ambranette Storr, Lutheran, 23 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
Key performers: Grace Gould, Sterling, 15 points, 4 rebounds; Gretchen Gould, Sterling, 8 points, 5 rebounds; Josi Borum, Sterling, 6 points, 10 rebounds; Madison Davis, Lutheran, 17 points, 3 rebounds