Lady Lions show claws in win over Erie

Lionel Tipton

LEON—It might have been the sour taste lingering from a 35-point loss to Eureka the night before.

It might have been the challenge of facing an Erie team that had a 9-4 record coming in.

Or, it might have been the mystique of a homecoming game.

Whatever the reason, Bluestem’s girls hung around with the visiting Red Devils in the first half, then outscored them 38-14 in the second half and cruised to a 74-52 victory Friday night.

Lead changes dominated the first half, with the teams seesawing the lead back and forth. There were six ties and seven lead changes before Erie took a 38-36 halftime lead.

But in the second half, the Lions (7-8) played like the team with the glossier record. Erie’s shots started rolling off, and usually into the hands of Bluestem rebounders like Torrance and Taylor Lovesee, Grace Standfast and Riese Witty. Diminutive point guard Holli Emmons pestered the Red Devils constantly, leading to 12 Erie turnovers in the second half.

Senior Kirstyn Cooper hit two Lions’ six three-pointers and finished with a game-high 20 points, including going six-for-six from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. Senior Torrance Lovesee benefited from getting a number of putbacks of Bluestem misses and had 17 points. Donner, a junior, hit three three-pointers and finished with 18 points – seven in the fourth quarter, when the Lions pulled away.

Bluestem’s confidence really soared in the second half. Brooklyn Korte hit a three-pointer from the top of the key with about 4:40 left in the third period for a 43-40 Lions lead, and Bluestem never trailed again, steadily building the advantage. The final 22-point margin was its largest lead of the game.

Afterward, Lions coach Troy Babcock was pleased, especially after having to make such a quick turnaround.

“This is a big win for us, a good league win,” Babcock said. “We’re confident that we can beat anybody in our league. We had to come out and play a full game.

“That’s kind of been our struggle this year, getting a full game in for us.”

Recently, including the back-to-back games Thursday and Friday, Babcock said his team has been in action frequently.

“We have a tough schedule,” he said. “We’ve played nine games in the last three weeks. We just haven’t had time to work on things in practice, because we’re always playing games. So, they’ve kind of become our practice, unfortunately.

“Given the circumstances, we’re just happy to play.”

And, winning on homecoming night makes it all the more special.

“They earned it,” Babcock said. “They deserve it.”

There are some nice takeaways from the triumph as well, Babcock said.

“Everybody knew Erie is a good team; they’ve beaten several teams in our league,” he said. “It’s a good confidence-builder for us. We know we can do the same thing and beat the remaining league teams on our schedule.”

Cooper said it was typical for the Lions to go from underdog coming in to dominant team at the end.

“That’s just how the team goes,” she said. “We don’t care about their record. We just play and go as a team.”

Torrance Lovesee, who will attend UTEP on a volleyball scholarship next year, said the 88-53 loss at Eureka 24 hours earlier fired up her team Friday.

“Honestly, I think it’s just from (Thursday) night with the loss, it’s just the finish the week off with the win because we’ve got three games this week,” she said. “It’s just as we go into a game having fun and coming out of a game having fun. We can start off with great attitudes, being positive, it just drives us to want to win for (Babcock).”

Erie had the upper hand previously against Bluestem, and Lovesee said that made Friday’s victory even sweeter.

“We don’t usually win against Erie,” she said. “It’s always close games. Winning right now is a big deal, especially because it’s Homecoming. It’s a good thing to win on Homecoming.

“Our main thing before every game is to have fun. I think we went out and did that. We focused on their cutters coming down, trying to stay in front of them, always moving on offense. I think we did that.”

Lovesee said that Emmons, a 5-foot-4 freshman, deserves credit for hounding Erie much of the night and forcing turnovers, especially the critical ones in the second half. 

“She was much needed,” Lovesee said of Emmons. “She is what helps us a lot, especially on our full-court defense. She gets in their head.”

Donner seemed to always head for the left baseline, and was pretty effective from behind the arc there. 

“I do like corners a lot,” she said. “That’s usually where I’m the strongest.”

Fatigue was not an option for playing a second game within 24 hours, Donner said.

“I think (Erie) was getting a little tired,” she said. “I think we were running them pretty good.

“Even if (our legs aren’t fresh), we go out and push them as hard as we can. I mean, that’s all we can do because we want to win.”

Bluestem 74, Erie 52

Erie 17;21;5;9 – 52

Bluestem 19;17;15;23 – 74

Erie: Clevenger 3(2) 4-6 16, Kramer 8 0-2 16, Pasquarelli 4 1-3 9, Jocquinot 2 1-3 3, Brant 2 1-4 3, Ellis 0 2-2 2, Hopper 0 2-2 2, LaRue 0 1-2 1, Pemberton 0 0-2 0. Totals  17(2) 12-25 52.

Bluestem: Cooper 4(2) 6-9 20, Donner 4(3) 1-2 18, To. Lovesee 4 9-10 17, Korte 1(1) 2-2 7, Ta. Lovesee 2 0-4 4, Witty 1 1-2 3, Emmons 0 2-3 2, Potter 1 0-0 2. Hiedeman 0 0-2 0. Totals 17(6) 22-34 74.