When the Grove Lady Ridgerunners line up against Bishop Kelley in Thursday’s area consolation semifinal at Sapulpa High School, they may feel like they’re looking in the mirror.
Like the Lady Ridgerunners, the Lady Comets (13-11) will run their offense through their post players and play tough defense, a formula that has gotten Bishop Kelley to the area consolation finals the past two seasons.
“They’re real similar to us,” Grove head coach Richard Bassett said. “As far as athletic abilities and what they do, it’s very similar.”
The Comets have gotten to this point by beating Noble 51-39 in the first round before losing 35-34 to Collinsville in Saturday’s regional final, their third one-point loss to the Cardinals this season. Bishop Kelley relies on five senior starters including 5-11 post Seana Stoia, who leads the team with 10.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest. Stoia, along with point guard Madi Schulz, had 11 points in Saturday’s loss. Schulz leads the team with 5.1 assists per game, Haley Stephens, Claire Collins and Ashlyn McCorkle all average between 8.5 and 9.3 points per game in a balanced offensive attack.
However, what’s most concerning to Bassett will be the Comets’ matchup zone defense.
“Their matchup zone is tough. You don’t know if it’s zone or man. They’re going to force you into shots you don’t want.”
That zone, however, will allow some open looks around the perimeter, an area the Ridgerunners have greatly improved in since last season. Junior guard Emilee Iverson is hitting 36 percent from beyond the arc and is second on the team with 8.8 points per game. Sophomore guard Karah Bassett has also come off the bench to be something of a long-range shooting specialist.
The Grove girls should also have an advantage on the inside where, aside from Stoia, the Comets lack the depth on the interior to match up with the Ridgerunners.
“I think our bigs are better,” Bassett said. “We’re definitely more physical.”
The trio of Mason Jeffries, Taylor Dodson and Libby Morris combined for 57 points and 32 rebounds in the two regional games last week. Jeffries led Grove with 12 points and 7 rebounds in the win over McAlester, while Morris displayed her all-around game in scoring 14 points from all over the court in the loss to East Central in Saturday’s regional final.
The Ridgerunners will also rely on their defense as they try to win two games this weekend to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1994. Grove held McAlester to 42 points in their playoff opener and held East Central to 22 points in the first half Saturday before turnovers fueled the Cardinals’ to a big second half. For the season, Grove is allowing an average of 36.3 points per game.
“If we play at our level, we should be alright,” Bassett said.
Thursday’s game will tip off at 8 p.m. Thursday at Sapulpa High School. The winner of that game will advance to Saturday’s area consolation championship where they will meet the loser of the area championship between Tahlequah and Tulsa Memorial for a berth in the state tournament.