GENOA – Marengo coach Nick Rode summed up his team’s defensive effort on Tuesday night against Sycamore in one word: Gritty.
Unfortunately for the Indians, their gritty defense didn’t last the entire game as Sycamore ended Marengo’s breakout season in a 43-27 loss at the Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Sectional semifinals.
Marengo trailed by one point at halftime but couldn’t maintain the same effort throughout the second half. The Indians made only one field goal in the third quarter and leading scorer, Marissa Knobloch, was held to just seven points.
Rode said his team couldn’t keep up with Sycamore’s intensity.
“I think we got tight on offense and our movement stopped,” he said. “We wanted to puncture them off the drive and with some backcourt cuts. We were pretty unsuccessful doing that in the third quarter. …It got really bad for us there.”
Marengo’s defense made life miserable for Sycamore’s Kate Majerus and Kylie Feuerbach in the first half. Majerus finished with only five points on 2-of-7 shooting; however, Feuerbach scored 11 of her game-high 17 points during the second half.
Majerus and Feuerbach were circled on the scouting report all-week long, according to Rode.
“I think (Majerus and Feuerbach) went into halftime wishing they got off a few more clean looks off what we were doing,” he said. “They had some missed layups, we did a good job of swarming Feuerbach. She’s an incredibly tough player to stop and we threw a lot of kids at her.
“But in the second half, you could see her athleticism just took over. They’re a great team and she’s a great player. She beat us to the hoop.”
Despite her team’s offensive struggles in the first half, Feuerbach said she was never worried and knew her shot would fall eventually.
“We’re kind of used to (the defensive pressure),” she said. “I think we had about 12 or 14 points worth of missed layups in the first half. We were just focusing on the little things in the second half. …making sure we screened our teammates and finished at the basket. When our shots started to fall it gave us more confidence.”
Knobloch and sophomore forward Jordan Parker led Marengo with seven points each.
Despite the loss, Rode said Marengo’s future is bright. The Indians have only one senior and are expected to return their entire rotation next season.
“I don’t know how much we really have to change,” he said. “I’m sure there are things we have to look at that didn’t go well this game. But as far as having the players that fit a certain style, knowing everybody is coming back makes game planing in the offense that much easier.”
Marengo (22-9) doubled its win total from last year and won a regional championship for the first time since 2005.
“I know the girls are excited to come back, and I’m sure the community is excited to see what we can become next year,” Rode said. “For us to be such a young team and get as far as we did, we accomplished quite a bit.”