Even Ed Foulk’s two-hour, intensity-driven practices won’t make his Kenton Ridge girls basketball team perfect at anything. But a few days of simply getting to practice made a lot more shots go in.
Six days after a 22-percent shooting night and escaping the first-round upset bid of Shawnee, the top-seeded Cougars had their shooting touch back Wednesday against 13th-seeded Urbana. The Cougars shot 51 percent and rolled to a 74-28 victory and into another Division II sectional final.
“We had confidence from the start because we had good practices all week,” Cougars senior guard Sara Thornton said. “It felt like more energy was on the floor, like we wanted to be there.”
The Cougars (22-1) practiced once during the week leading up to the Shawnee game because of weather cancellations. It took two late free throws by Sydney Bates for the Cougars to hold off the Braves 45-41. But practice vacation was over this week and it showed. Against Urbana (3-19), Bates scored 24 points, Stefanie Davis and Baylee Bennett had 12 apiece and Thornton had 10 after just one point against Shawnee.
“That one week, I think, just caught up to us on the Shawnee game,” Foulk said. “You don’t shoot for a week …”
So, is the shooting slump over?
“I hope so,” Foulk said. “If not, the season’s over.”
On Saturday, the Cougars will face fourth-seeded and always tough Carroll, a 59-38 winner over Meadowdale in Wednesday night’s second game at Tecumseh. The Patriots are 16-7 and finished 8-2 in the Greater Catholic League.
“If they’re in our league they probably don’t have seven losses,” Foulk said. “That’s what people don’t realize.”
Thornton knows good practices are a must today and Friday.
“It can’t be like that in situations like this,” she said referring to the Shawnee game, “because anyone can win any day.”
Urbana had some turnovers early, but longtime head coach Bill Moss was pleased with how his young team started the game. But it didn’t last. The Cougars turned a 19-7 first-quarter lead into a 43-15 lead at the half as turnovers and missed shots mounted for the Hillclimbers.
“Our big problem all year is when something goes bad we tend to go with that,” Moss said. “They got some steals, and we didn’t do a very good job.”
The young Hillclimbers had junior center Braxton Rogan to depend on this season. She averaged 12.5 points, and worked hard inside for 19 against the Cougars. But against the Cougars’ full-court pressure and half-court aggressive man-to-man, the Hillclimbers’ young backcourt struggled.
Moss is asking his players to make a commitment to basketball this offseason.
“They’ve got to honestly evaluate themselves and say, ‘Are we going to become better basketball players,’ ” he said. “We don’t do that, we’ll be the same as we were this year. If they look at this year and say, ‘I must become a better player, make a commitment to get in the gym and work on my skills,’ I think we can be pretty good because we have some talent.”