for River begins with bang
By Matt Pawlikowski
Published Feb. 21, 2007
Kessler shows her diversity, as not only can she score but alos
play defense, as she pulls dow a rebound. (Photo by Larry Bennet)
River’s thumping of Brookside in the sectional opener came as no
surprise, but getting the game under the team’s wings as a first
seed was important to head coach Michael Murray.
Like most schools this week, River had two snow days,
meaning time missed from the gym. But, Murray said that he decided
not to take a bye at the seedings meeting, because it would have
meant sitting out for at least 13 days without a game.
“That was important for us, because as you could see,
we struggled at first, and weren’t assertive on defense,’’ said
Murray. “That’s expected after a seven day break, but we played
a lot of kids, and they did what they had to do.”
Brookside coach Gene Leonard always has his team prepared,
but the talent the Cardinals possessed was much inferior to the
Pirates. Still, for the first half, they gave River a game.
At one point, Brookside led 8-4, and after a quarter
it was 13-10 River. The Pirates stepped up its defensive pressure
in the second quarter, but Brookside, despite scoring just eight
points, still was in the game, and down just eight at half.
The second half was a different story.
Whatever Murray said to them in lockeroom, must have been
inspiring. Not only did they outscore the Cardinals 20-4, but Murray
was also able to get a number of players into the game.
“Brookside came in with a game plan, and they executed
it very well in the first half,” said Murray. “We had 13 kids score
at least a point; Kealy (McNally) is 100 percent healthy now, and
it shows we can count on a number of kids to get the job done for
While McNally was pulled after River took an 18-point
game after coming down hard on her ankle, she still scored six points.
Leading the way for the Pirates was Kristen Strang, who has really
come on strong as of late. Strang led all scorers with 14 points.
“I had that many?” she said with a huge grin after
the game. “I feel like I’ve started to pick my game up. I’m just
glad I can keep helping the team.”
Instead of talking about herself though, Strang deferred
her comments to what the rest of the team was doing, and said you
should talk with Hanna (Pempus). Pempus also had a nice game, putting up six points.
“It was great to get out there and play tonight,’’
said Pempus. “We had a rough start, but picked it up, and when we
started playing defense, we started playing much better. It was
fun to watch everyone get in there and play.”
Murray said that Strang, who helped pick up the slack
when McNally was out for two games at the end of the season, has
been a boost, along with the play of a number of other girls on
“Kristen, she’s doing just great,”said Murray. “And
Maureen Kessler (five points), she set the table for us, and played
great defensively. Those two give us a great post combination. We
have a number of kids who can come in and play multiple postions.”
Murray also singled out the play of Justine Beres,
who had four points, and Mary Beth Leitch, who had seven off the
bench, and the defensive play of Brooke Towner, who was excited
about the win.
“It feels really good; it’s awesome how we’re doing,”
she said. “I think what makes it so good is we’re playing like a
team, no one is selfish, and everyone is doing well.”
The Pirates get back into action again tonight against
Buckeye, who had a first round bye. Last year the Pirates knocked
them out in the sectional final, but according to Murray they are
a dangerous team, one that is just a few years removed from making
it to regional action.
“We played them last year, and they had all kinds
of seniors,’’ said Murray. “They do have a nice freshman post player,
and some of the kids who played on that regional team are playing
really well. They’ve been on a roll as late, and Connie Rummell
does a great job.”
If there was one thing noticeable about River, it
was the fact there was no overconfidence, and that they were loose
and relaxed, and playing the game like it should be - fun.
“We’re excited, and I think they have accepted the
challenge,” said Murray. “What we’re preaching every game is that
we are playing now for the next one. One team is going home, and
one is moving on, so our goal is to keep moving on, and we don’t
care how we win, whether it’s ugly or pretty.”