If Lebanon High School girls basketball coach Chad Cruthis had any questions concerning the focus and mindset of his top-ranked Class 1A team of the challenged, those questions were answered on consecutive nights at the Carrollton Tournament two weeks ago.
Undefeated and taking on second-ranked Winchester West Central in the semifinals, the Greyhounds got a last season shot from Kendra Bass to win 52-50. The next night, the dreams of an undefeated season ended when Class 3A Civic Memorial and Allie Troeckler handed Lebanon a 48-35 setback.
The reactions Cruthis saw from his team were similar but not unexpected.
“Tie game with 17 seconds to play, I saw no panic in their eyes when we called time out even though they (West Central) had scored the last six points. We drew up a play and executed,” Cruthis said. “After the game, the girls were happy, but they weren’t jumping up and down. They knew we had another game to play the next night.
“And even when we lost the title game to Civic Memorial, the girls were disappointed, but they weren’t devastated. This is a good group of girls which just stays pretty (sic) even no matter what the situation. They just keep surprising me.”
Cruthis hopes there are no surprises in store for his Greyhounds who enter play this week at the Madison Regional with a 26-1 record. The Greyhounds open play Thursday against either Bunker Hill or (Glen Carbon) Father McGivney. A title game matchup with either Metro East Lutheran or host Madison awaits on Friday.
The winner of the Madison Regional will play in the Hardin-Calhoun Sectional next week, anticipating a game with host and defending state champion Hardin-Calhoun in the semifinal. Hardin-Calhoun defeated Lebanon in the sectional semifinals a year ago.
“We have to get there first. In the postseason, you never want to look to far ahead because if you do, sometimes you’re packing your bags and putting away the uniforms earlier than you want too,” Cruthis said. “One step at a time.”
Led by two sets of twin sisters, Kendra and Krista Bass and Emily and Abigail Reinneck, the Greyhounds have done a good job of not looking ahead.
Senior point guard Cassey Berberich (8.0) is fast while 6-1 junior Madison Schoenfeld (6.7 ppg. 7 rebounds) can be a force in the post area.
“We have good balance. On any given night any one of these girls can step up and score in double figures. And they have,” Cruthis said. “If we are fortunate enough to win a regional title and get to the sectional where you could have four of the top teams in the state in us, West Central, Hardin-Calhoun and either Okawville or Mount Olive. Any one of us could advance.”
Class 1A Regional-Sectional Complex
Seeds: 2. Okawville, 3. Mount Olive, 6. Gibault, 8. Valmeyer. 10. (OFallon) First Baptist Academy
Could Surprise: Mount Olive
Synopsis: Ranked among the top 10 Class 1A teams in the state all season, the Rockets (20-6) are a better and more experiences team than the one which was upset by (Centralia) Christ our Rock Lutheran in a regional final a year ago. Coach Michelle Hasheider-Burianek’s squad has played a schedule loaded with Class 2A and Class 3A teams and is built around defense. Junior Madison Hackstadt (15.6 ppg.) has developed into one of the top Class 1A players in the state, while Casean Tebbe (8.3) and Madelyn Tepe (7.9) are also solid players for the Rockets. Gibault (10-14) is led by Catherine Deterding. (9.0).
Seeds 1. Lebanon, 4. Madison, 5. Metro East Lutheran, 7. Bunker Hill, 9. (Glen Carbon) Father McGivney
Could Surprise: Madison
Synopsis: Ranked as the top Class 1A team in the state all season, Lebanon (26-1) has truly established itself as an elite program for the third year in a row under coach Chad Cruthis. But the Madison Trojans (12-7) have enjoyed a breakthrough year in the ‘16-17 campaign. In the midst of one of the finest seasons in school history, Madison is without question one of the more athletic teams in the area. Tamara Anderson (10.1), Konnija Greer (16.7) and two-sport standout Delphanae Griffin (11.6) make up one the top small school trios in the St. Louis area. The Trojans also have the luxury of playing the regional on their home floor. Fifth seed Metro East Lutheran lost to Madison 52-48 during the season but is led by Ellen Schulte (14.2) and Sami Kasting (14.1).
Seeds: 2. Junction (Gallatin County), 3. New Athens, 6. Steeleville, 7. Marissa, 8. Bluford (Weber)
Favorite: Junction (Gallatin County)
Could Surprise: New Athens
Synopsis: Led by one of the top young coaches in southern Illinois in Erik Hager, the Yellowjackets may not have the talent they had a couple of years back when they reached the Class 1A sectional final, but New Athens did finish the regular season with 17-9 record and second place finish behind Lebanon in the Cahokia Conference. Senior Jordan Drake leads the Yellowjackets attack (9.0). Marissa finished 11-13 in the regular season and is led by Kenzie Kern (8.6).