The Clinton Prairie-Rossville match-up on November 20 feels like ancient history, but the game is clearly at the front of the minds of both head coaches.
It took a Jasmine Hanna jumper with 12 seconds left to lift Prairie past Rossville, 44-43. Both teams went in opposite directions from that point, with Prairie finishing 11-9 and Rossville 3-17.
Because of that close game, the discrepancy between the two teams may not be very wide heading into tonight’s Class A Sectional 54 quarterfinal showdown at Rossville.
“We know we can compete with them, and that helps gives us confidence,” said Rossville head coach Jeff Henley. “Confidence is something we haven’t played with a whole lot this year, and knowing that we were able to play them as tight as we did on our court gives us some confidence.”
The Hornets also ended the season on a high note, beating Faith Christian, 50-43.
In that first Prairie-Rossville contest, Hornet senior guards Hannah Alling and Emily Virtue-Gamblin combined to hit nine 3-pointers, and have proven capable of such outburst multiple times this season.
That concerns Prairie head coach Jason Haid.
“They’ve been doing that to a lot of teams as of late,” Haid said. “It’s got to be a focal point to take them away. (Michaela) Miller can shoot as well. The freshman (Brittyn Oliver) is really coming along for them, too. They’re a dangerous team. Any time a team shoots at a high percentage, we’ve got to make sure they take away their shots and be disciplined and aggressive at the same time.”
At the front of Haid’s mind, however, is his own team. The Gophers started the season hot, winning their first five games and 9 of their first 12. But they’ve soured as of late, losing six of their last eight contests – and only scored seven points in the second half in a regular season finale loss to West Lafayette.
Haid said the Gophers are getting quality looks but shots aren’t falling.
“We’ve gotten away from a little bit of what we were doing earlier on, not getting as many post touches as we have and haven’t gotten the ball inside early enough. Teams are taking it away and we’re trying to adjust and been working here this past week.”
Freshman post player Madison Douglass scored 15 points in the Rossville game, only her second contest of the year. Since then, Douglass – the county’s top scorer at 13.4 ppg – has been established as the Gophers’ top option on offense.
The Hornets will try to reduce Douglass’s touches in the post.
“We have to put pressure on the basketball so the ball can’t easily be passed in,” Henley said. “We can’t just back off and let their perimeter players find us inside. We have to front her as much as possible and provide help from our guards. She’s a lot stronger than anyone we have.”
Haid expects the Hornets to defend Douglass with two or three people at times, like most teams have this season.
“She has to continue to shoot, get position down there and expect to score every time she gets the ball,” Haid said. “Teams are making it a focal point to take her away. It can be frustrating to try and score with 2-3 people on her at once.”
Rossville showed the potential to pull off three upsets in the back half of the season – No. 3 Frontier (21-0), Attica (14-6) and Carroll (14-7) – but were done in by turnovers.
The Hornets are averaging more than 21 turnovers per game.
“I’m sure they’ll try to pressure the basketball and we’ll have to reduce our turnovers,” Henley said. “We can’t have passes that get stolen that lead to easy lay-ups.”
This is the second consecutive year Rossville has hosted the sectional. Whether the Hornets can turn that into an advantage will depends how well they can take care of the basketball.
“We’re comfortable here and we don’t have to ride a bus,” Henley said. “We played 12 games on the road to begin with. We’re comfortable here but the bottom line is we have to play well for 32 minutes. We can’t have 2-3 minute lapses.”
The game will start at approximately 7:30 p.m., following Frontier-Lafayette Central Catholic.