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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

RM Article on Sectional Championship

When you only score 20 points in the second half in a sectional championship game, usually you could be in big trouble.

But not if your team completely dominates the first half by scoring 54 points and building a 39-point lead, and that’s exactly what the Galesburg High School girls basketball team did Thursday night to beat Peoria Richwoods 74-46 in the Class 3A Metamora Sectional championship game.

Galesburg (28-6) will now take on Country Club Hills Hillcrest at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Pontiac Supersectional with a trip to the state tournament on the line.

Without all-state forward Mariah Smith — who missed the game due to illness — the Knights (28-4)  were completely overmatched by a Silver Streaks team that may have played its best half of the season.

“So far in the postseason, coming out strong has been our trademark,” Galesburg coach Evan Massey said. “We did a great job of that tonight. With our style, it really needs that kind of energy. It also helped that we couldn’t miss.”

Massey was hardly exaggerating as Galesburg went of 10-of-14 from 3, including seven from Jessica Howard in the first half alone.
Howard started her hot shooting early, burying back-to-back 3-pointers to start the game before the Streaks really opened it up with a 28-2 run that stretched over seven minutes of play.

It was a clinic of how The System should be played as the Streaks buried 3s, found open cutters and forced the Knights into 16 turnovers and out of any kind of offensive rhythm.

While Richwoods finally got to double-digits on a pair of free throws, Galesburg continued to bury the short-handed Knights, scoring nine straight points before Howard buried her seventh 3-pointer to cap off a shocking first half.

Howard finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc, but admitted she wasn’t sure how her game would go during warmups.

“Actually I was kind of surprised,” said Howard. “Usually I feel my shooting touch, but tonight I just started shooting it and they started going in. Sometimes it just happens I guess.”

Galesburg was able to take its foot off the gas in the second half and was actually outscored in the second half 31-20. But with the outcome never in doubt, the Streaks gladly settled for the final score that will have them going to their first supersectional since the 2002-2003 season.

“This is really important to all of us,” Howard said. “We just put the first part of the season behind us and just said we are going to have a winning record and see how far we can go. We don’t want it to end because we just love playing with each other.”

While all the talk before the game was about the absence of Smith and Breana Baker — another starter for Richwoods — that quickly became an afterthought as Galesburg appeared unstoppable no matter who was on the floor.

“We really didn’t know until right before the game,” Massey said of Smith. “Jamie (Johnson) looked down during warmups and noticed she wasn’t there. But really our whole intent was that we had to focus on ourselves and what we do.”

But without two-fifths of his starting lineup on the floor, Richwoods coach Todd Hursey was forced to play a number of young players who looked overwhelmed against the Streaks’ frantic style of play.

“We didn’t have our all-stater,” Hursey said. “For four years she has led our program and she’s home sick. So we just approached it as let’s get after it and see what happens. We played some young kids and they did a good job, but they missed some assignments and that is a killer at this level.”

Regardless of who played and who didn’t, there is no denying the accomplishments this Galesburg team has achieved, just one year removed from a 17-14 season that ended in the opening round of regional play.

And despite how far they have come, Massey said that his team is still unaware of just how much they have accomplished.

“One of the best characteristics about this team is they are sort of naive,” Massey said. “I don’t think they fully understand what they have accomplished and they aren’t too focused on those kinds of things. Right now, it’s more about them and its just a chance to play another game.”

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