COAL TOWNSHIP — The opening match of the Bob Probert Memorial Holiday Tournament held Thursday at Shamokin Area Middle-High School had all the makings of a competitive game.
Lourdes Regional entered the match undefeated and Southern Columbia countered with an equally impressive 7-1 record.
The game didn’t live up to any of the hype.
Southern Columbia forced 19 turnovers before the Red Raiders were able to score their first field goal of the match and the Tigers powered to a 54-21 victory behind a 16-point day from senior forward Morgan Cole.
Southern opened the game with a quick 7-0 run, kicking off with a 3-pointer from Sarah Rodriguez and capitalizing on three straight Lourdes turnovers, which led to two baskets from Jill Marks and a timeout by Lourdes skipper Michael Klembara just 1:30 into the game.
After another turnover, which led to no points, Lourdes got on the board with two free throws from Frances Czeponis to cut the lead to 7-2.
The Tigers then went on a 20-0 run before Katie Shimko scored the Red Raiders’ first field goal of the night with just 54 seconds remaining in the half.
Klembara, who was surprised at just how much his team struggled in the opening half, said the Red Raiders have something to be thankful for after the lopsided loss.
“I said this to the girls, ‘Be thankful that this is game number six and be thankful for Southern for how well they played because they exposed a lot of deficiences that we have,’” Klembara said.
He continued, “Now we have to build upon it. Southern shot the ball well — we didn’t. I charted Southern in games and they maybe had six treys over their last six games and they had six tonight alone.”
Klembara said he will now look to the team’s seniors, Czeponis, Lilly Bickel and Sierra Coleman, to keep the squad’s morale up.
“How good of a basketball team we are is going to be based on how we respond for our next game,” he said.
Aside from the suffocating Southern Columbia defense creating easy opportunities for the offense, the Tigers utilized great ball movement, focusing on finding a forward in the high-post and kicking the ball back outside for open looks.
“We’ve been working on that for a long time and it finally clicked tonight,” Southern head coach Bill Callahan said. “I thought our girls came out on a mission tonight and they were focused and they played really, really well. I thought on defense we caused a lot of problems and on offense our ball movement was excellent.
“I got to give all the credit to the kids. They did a great job tonight.”
Callahan attributed some of the success to the players finally getting a rest over Christmas break after a strenuous start to the season.
“We were frustrated early in the season because we weren’t doing some things right but today we looked great. Getting off to that big lead really helped us settle down and play our way,” he said.
But, not wanting to get too far ahead of himself, Callahan concluded, “It doesn’t mean anything if we don’t come out to play tomorrow night.”
Southern Columbia will face Shamokin Area at 4:30 p.m. today for the championship game of the girls side of the Bob Probert Memorial Holiday Tournament. Lourdes Regional will meet Shamokin at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday to finish the two-game tournament.