The Elsberry Lady Indians prevailed over Crystal City during the second round of districts on Feb. 25 by a final score of 63-43.
“It was just one of those games where we knew we were the better team,” said Head Coach Hector Bencomo.
Elsberry was led in scoring by Tanner Bencomo and Amanda Jo Talbot who each had 13 points. Brittni Hagemeier and Passion Hunter-Edwards also contributed offensively with 10 points each.
The Lady Indians outscored Crystal City 18-17 in the first quarter and went into halftime with a 29-24 lead.
The third quarter of the game was a relatively close one as well, with Elsberry outscoring Crystal City 17-13, but the final eight minutes made all the difference as the Lady Indians outscored their opponents 17-6 to cement the win.
“We knew we had a size advantage so we just gave Brittni as many touches as we could,” said Coach Bencomo.
Elsberry then advanced to the final round of the tournament where they were defeated by the New Haven Lady Shamrocks (44-32).
“We prepared for that game in a very different way,” said Coach Bencomo. “We focused on playing man-to-man defense instead of our traditional 2-3 zone. We executed that to the letter during the first and second quarter of the game. That’s what kept it close. Even during the third quarter we were within seven points.”
The Lady Indians were led in scoring by Bencomo, Brown and Boedeker who each had seven points.
New Haven outscored the Lady Indians 13-9 in the first quarter, but Elsberry came back to best the Shamrocks 9-6 in the second, resulting in a close halftime score of 19-18.
Unfortunately, the second half proved to be a much different story.
The Lady Shamrocks emerged from the break to outscore Elsberry 11-5 in the third and 14-9 in the fourth to earn the victory.
“We missed three or four key baskets,” said Coach Bencomo. “If we had hit those it would have been a much different game.”
Despite the loss, Coach Bencomo said he’s very proud of his team for the way they performed throughout the game in order to stay so close to a team of New Haven’s caliber.
In boys’ action, playing a team on their home court is always tough. Playing a team on their home court for a championship, district is double tough.
Despite a well traveled crowd from Elsberry, a sea of green mostly filled the stands at New Haven for the Elsberry versus New Haven Class 2 District 4 Championships.
“We knew going into that game it was going to be tough. Playing on their home floor versus a Hall of Fame coach that has his name on the gym floor,” said Coach Ryan Parker. “Our backs were against the wall before we walked into the gym.”
Parker also talked about the semi-inexperienced roster playing in a game of that magnitude.
The much shorter New Haven squad started strong against the Indians, keeping the Elsberry guards from getting the ball inside to their big guys Kenny Lesley and Dylan Howard and themselves hitting some big buckets.
“I think some of the guys that have not played at that level didn’t know what to expect and wanted the game to come to them early. We couldn’t afford a slow start against a team like that,” said Parker.
Elsberry only had four field goals in the first half and only eight points from their big three: Lesley, Rahiem Porter and Rodney Chatman.
The second half was much better for the Indians, unfortunately, the Shamrocks remained hot. They hit from the perimeter and made their free throws.
“After half time we came out and played more like we do every night but at that time we had dug ourselves a hole we couldn’t get out of,” said Parker.
That hole was compounded by numerous fouls called on Elsberry, including a technical on Parker.
“I was frustrated with the officials from the get go. I thought New Haven was getting away with a lot of stuff inside the paint on offense and defense. Moving screens as well as playing extremely physical with Kenny. I think they had heard enough from me, I didn’t say a word when he gave me the technical I was walking away from the situation,” stated Parker. “If you watched that game New Haven’s coach was out of his box just as much as me and was asking questions just as much as me. But to Ray’s [Steinhoff] credit he is a Hall of Fame coach and has earned a little more leeway.”
Despite the 55-44 loss Parker stated he “truly enjoyed the season and his team.”
With only having four upperclassmen on the roster Parker talked about the season being more difficult to get things working on a consistent basis.
“Basically we played one senior, two juniors, three sophomores and one freshman for the better part of this season,” said Parker. “We got better as the season went on and nothing to be ashamed of going 19-8 this year. Our program has played in a district final every year I have been here winning four out of six.”
As for the two seniors leaving this year’s squad.
“We are going to miss Dylan [Howard] and Caleb [Vitro], but as you see we have a big part of our core returning,” said Parker.