Red Bud senior Ali Ringering has been a basketball gym rat since she was a toddler.
"Ever since I could walk, I've been around the game and running after basketballs in a gym,'' said Ringering. "My dad is a coach and both my brothers played but they never forced me to play. I love the game and it's something I've always wanted to do.''
Her passion for the sport and tireless work ethic has made Ringering one of the premier players in the state. A deadly 3-point shooter, Ringering leads the entire St. Louis area in scoring, averaging 27.9 points a game. Her leadership and unselfishness has helped put the Red Bud girls basketball program back on the map.
With Ringering leading the way, Red Bud won 18 games, its first regional title since 1995 and advanced to the Class 2A Sectional title game a year ago before losing to eventual state champion Nashville.
Ringering isn't concerned with her point totals. Her goals have always centered around the success of her team.
"Ali is just a coach's dream,'' Musketeers coach Janelle Pfeiffer said. "We've gone from being senior- dominated last year to her being the only senior this year. Ali knew that she would have to take on more of a leadership role this year and she's done a great job with it.
"Ali is a great player, but I think that she would probably give up every point she's scored if we could win another regional, a sectional or if she had a chance to play in the state tournament.
Growing up on hoops
Ringering also plays softball and volleyball at Red Bud. But basketball is her first love.
Dad Tony Ringering, who is the head girls basketball coach and athletic director at Red Bud Junior High, taught his daughter and two sons -- Rhett Ringering and Ryan Kordys -- the basics of the game at an early age. Ryan, now 27, was the 2003 state King of the Hill Champion in the 3-point competition at the 2003 state tournament
The trio can often can be found shooting hoops outside at home or in an empty Red Bud Junior High gym.
"We play a lot. Horse, pig, 1-on-1, you name it,'' Ali said. "Have I ever beaten them? Well, let's just say I've had my moments.''
Tony and Mary Ringering, an assistant principal at Red Bud High School, have taught their children that the team always comes first. And for Ali Ringering, helping a young Musketeers team has been a challenge at times this season.
"Yes, I feel like I've stepped into more of a leadership role. We're really young this year and so I've tried to take on a little bit more,'' Ringering said. "My parents always raised us that the team comes first, personal stats last. That's something that I've always grown up with and something I agree with completely.''
Tough to stop
Each time the 5-foot-9 Ringering has walked on to a basketball court this season, there has been a giant "X" on her back.
The leading scorer in Red Bud girls basketball history, Ringering has drawn the opposing team's best defender or has been double-teamed on a nightly basis.
Ringering has been subjected to variations of the box-and-1 and triangle-and-2 defenses as opposing coaches attempt to find some way to slow her down. So far, few teams have.
Pfeiffer recalled a game against Class 2A state power Central earlier in the season. Currently ranked second in the state, the Cougars defeated Red Bud 66-29 on a night when Ringering was "held" to 23 points.
"They beat us pretty good. Ali was a little bummed out about it and I'm like 'Ali, the best team in the state of Illinois just played a triangle-and-2 defense against you. That's a huge compliment,'' Pfeiffer said. "We're 11-13 and I bet in the 24 games we've played, she's gone up against either the box-and-1 or triangle-and-2, in 19 of those games.''
An incredible stretch
Ringering, who averaged 20.1 for a Red Bud team that finished 18-11 last season, has done it all this year.
In addition to averaging nearly 28 points a game, Ringering is shooting 53 percent from the field and 42 percent from behind the 3-point line (62 of 147). She also averages 5 rebounds, three assists and two steals per game.
But all of that pales to a recent six game stretch when Ringering was in the zone.
On Jan. 22, Ringering scored 39 points in a 5-point loss to Columbia. After outbursts of 36 and 37 points, Ringering scored 47 points in a 68-59 win over Waterloo and followed that up with a 43- point game in a 58-56 win over Wesclin.
Of all the areas of Ringering's game that have improved over last season, the most noticeable is her unlimited 3-point range.
With opposing defenses watching her every move and closing the middle, limiting her ability to penetrate and dish off to the open player, Ringering spent countless hours shooting 3-point jumpers from the 26- to 28-foot range over the summer.
"I've increased my range,'' Ringering said. "Before defenses were packing it in and cutting off the drive. Now I'm able to step back beyond the 3-point line, which make defenses have to expand.''
In Pfeiffer's mind, Ringering is a complete player.
"Ali reminds me of (Althoff great) Teresa Lisch in her ability to penetrate and score, (and as a point guard) she sees the floor about as well as (former Okawville standouts) Kelly and Katie Hasheider did,'' Pfeiffer said. "For those who haven't seen Ali Ringering play, you've missed something. She's special."
More than an athlete
If being one of the premier basketball players in the state isn't enough, Ringering also shines in the classroom. She is a straight-A student and scored a 31 on her ACT test.
"I spend a lot of time on my academics. I'm a 4.0 student and so the academics have always been a big part of who I am,'' Ringering said. "I also enjoy spending time with my teammates. We're a pretty close-knit group both on and off the floor.''
College coaches will also be knocking on her door soon. Ringering wants to stay close to home and is considering Maryville University, among others.
But as accomplished as she is, basketball will always be a game to Ringering.
"No, I don't put any pressure on myself. It's my senior year and I'm just going out and having fun playing the game I love.'' Ringering said. "As an athlete, you want to win and you want to do your best and I do that.
"But when it comes down to it, it's a sport. It's a game.''
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or email@example.com