What a difference two weeks make. When the Festus Tigers girls varsity basketball team met up with the North County Raiders in Monday night’s district semifinal game at Farmington, both teams knew what to expect. Just two weeks earlier at home, the Tigers played an incredible second half to come back and defeat the Raiders by 14 points. What happened Monday night was a completely different story.
The keys to victory for Festus on February 12 were a stifling defense, aggressive rebounding, and limiting turnovers. Those factors were not there last night, and the Tigers ended their season with a 55-39 loss. Festus finishes the season with a 12-12 record.
“We just had too many turnovers (23) and poor shot selection,” said head coach Ron Rhodes. “We just didn’t do a good job defensively either.”
The first quarter was back and forth, but a late surge by North County gave the #3 seeded Raiders a 17-12 lead after the first eight minutes. In the second quarter, North County extended its lead to seven early, but an Abby Rickermann (10) three pointer pulled the Tigers to within two points at 22-20 with 2:44 remaining in the half. However, Festus would go stone cold for the rest of the quarter while the Raiders ran off eight consecutive points to take a ten point lead into halftime, 30-20.
Two weeks earlier, Festus found itself down by four heading into the second half. This time, the Tigers had a steeper hill to climb, but came out and scored the first four points of the third quarter within the first minute to pull to within six points at 30-24. But it just wasn’t in the cards for the Tigers this night. North County, again, went on a spurt and scored the next eight points to take a 14 point lead. Festus would only score two more points in the quarter, and to add insult to injury, the Raiders would score seven points off three consecutive Festus turnovers in the final minute to take a 45-26 lead into the fourth.
The Raiders’ size played a definite factor in the game. While the Tigers rebounded well two weeks ago, in this game, North County would get multiple attempts at points as they hit the offensive boards hard. And their strong defensive rebounding provided several transition points as the Raiders pushed the ball down the floor several times for easy points. Festus managed only 15 rebounds in the contest.
“We don’t have a lot of size, and we just can’t rebound against the bigger teams,” said Rhodes. “It’s not for a lack of effort, but we just don’t have much height, and it hurts us against quality teams.”
Another factor two weeks ago, was the excellent free throw shooting by the Tigers. This time, Festus only got to the line seven times and converted only two.
For the game, Rickermann led the Tigers with 15 points. She added four assists and three steals and hit four three pointers. Bria Garmon (10) and Jenna Oetting (11) followed with seven points each. Oetting added five assists and three steals. Jessica Hebenstreit (9) chipped in with six points, and Melasia Jones (10) rounded out the scoring with four.
While the loss hurts, what can not be lost is the fact that this team started the season 0-6. It turned the season around, won a conference championship, earned a #2 seed at the district tournament, and had a record of 12-6 since December 7.
“I’m proud of these girls,” said Rhodes. “We’re young, we had no seniors, and we’ll get everyone back next year. We had a great season. The kids stepped up and did well.”