After winning 76 games during the past three years, the Lebanon Greyhounds enter the 2017-18 girls basketball season with a huge target on their backs.
Led by senior all-state guard Kendra Bass and twin sister Krista Bass, the Greyhounds have been the dominant Class 1A team in the metro-east in each of the past two seasons. But coach Chad Cruthis team has seen its dreams of a trip to the state tournament come to a crashing halt in the sectional semi-finals at the hands of a Hardin-Calhoun program which won the 2016 state championship and placed third last spring.
This season, with the Bass sisters alongside senior Madison Schoenfeld and junior sharpshooter Emily Reinneck, they are returning back for a another try, and hopes are high once again. But Cruthis is trying to keep things as light as possible for a team that may feel the pressure to perform as one of the top Class 1A teams in the state.
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“As far as pressure, we don’t feel any pressure. These girls play basketball to have fun and when you approach the game that way, you play relaxed and whatever happens, happens,” Cruthis said. “When the post season hits, we want to be playing our best basketball and hopefully playing teams like Greenville, Breese Central, Okawville, Highland at the Carrollton Tournament, and our Christmas Tournament will prepare us for that.”
Getting a game-high 25 points from Reinneck and 14 each from the Bass sisters, Lebanon rolled to an easy 64-42 win over Greenville.
Reinneck had five 3-point baskets, while the Bass sisters put the finishing touch on a good first week in which they combined for 93 points.
“I thought we played better each game of the tournament, but really took a big step on Saturday,” Cruthis said. “I felt we won the first two games because of our athleticism and defense, but I felt we played a really complete game on Saturday after the first quarter and really looked much better offensively.
“We are the type of team that our defense sets up our offense most of the time, but we have to continue to improve our half-court offense to beat good teams.”
The Greyhounds face undefeated Central next on Wednesday.
Central wins Alton Tip-off Classic
The Central Cougars’ first tournament championship in over a year came against a familiar foe Saturday at Alton Tip-Off Classic.
Playing stellar defense and getting strong efforts from seniors Carson Newkirk and Faye Meissner, Central defeated city rival Mater Dei 26-21 in the low-scoring championship game at Alton High School.
The Cougars, who were 16-14 a year ago and lost to Highland in the Class 3A regional final, took the title with smothering defense. The Cougars did not allow more than 27 points in any of their three games.
Head coach Nathan Rueter is happy to be 3-0 after starting last season at 0-4.
“Overall, I am pleased with the results of the tournament this week. I can never fault the effort our girls give. They played very hard,” Rueter said. “We certainly still have a lot of work to do, but we will take it over the 0-4 hole we started in a season ago.
“Defensively we were pretty good in the championship game. I am very pleased with how we executed our game-plan against them in that sense. We obviously need to score more. Hopefully as the season wears on, we will develop more confidence in our perimeter shooting.”
Lampe headlines Alton all-tournament team
Mater Dei sophomore Shannon Lampe, who led her team into the title game of the Alton Tip-Off Classic, was honored as the tournament’s most valuable player. A 5-9 guard-forward, Lampe scored 30 points in the first two games.
Local players honored as first team all-tournament selections were Faye Meissner and Carson Newkirk of Central, Myah Beckman of Mater Dei and Ryan Tally of Alton. On the second team were Clare Breden and Abby Manns of Jerseyville and Allison Fehrmann of Central.
Tournament time in the metro east
The Thanksgiving holiday events will include several girls basketball tournaments for hoops fans to gobble up this week.
The Edwardsville Tigers, runner-up in the Class 4A State Tournament a year ago, are one of four Southwestern Conference teams competing at the O’Fallon Tip-Off Classic. Host O’Fallon along with Belleville East and Belleville West are also competing in the event which continues through Wednesday.
Also on tap is the annual Nashville Thanksgiving Tournament and events at Salem and Taylorville High Schools which run through Saturday.