BURLINGTON – Any worries Marengo girls basketball coach Nick Rode had before Friday's game against Prairie Ridge quickly vanished.
"I was a little worried with the length Prairie Ridge has and playing the zone," Rode said. "I was worried about a lot of deflected passes. Our kids took our simple message to heart: Puncture the zone.
"You saw Jordan Parker getting downhill. PR started to get worried about Jordan, and all of a sudden, Kierra [Morris] started opening up by the basket. We moved the ball around, and we started to finish."
Trailing by a point after the first quarter, The Indians (3-1) outscored the Wolves by 10 in the second to grab momentum at half and held off Prairie Ridge, 57-51, in the Burlington Central Thanksgiving Tournament.
Marengo went on a 12-3 run midway through the second quarter to turn an 18-14 deficit into a 26-21 lead.
A putback by Morris gave the Indians an eight-point lead, and two free throws from Jennifer Heinberg (11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists) pushed their lead to 31-21 with 1:55 left in the first half.
"We were puncturing the zone. That was the biggest key," said Parker, one of two returning starters for the Indians. "We're just hard workers in general. We don't get down. We're going to do whatever it takes to get the win."
Parker, a senior forward, was one of four Indians players to score in double figures. Parker and Morris both finished with 12 points. Morris had eight points in the second quarter and had eight rebounds.
The Wolves (1-2) didn't have an answer for them inside.
"We got outhustled and outworked in the first half, so I'm a little disappointed in our effort," Wolves coach Tim Taege said. "But Marengo played really well. They had girls step up that we didn't plan on. Jordan Parker did a great job playing in the middle, and [Morris] just killed us on the glass.
"We did not show an answer to that aggressiveness."
Prairie Ridge sophomore Karsen Karlblom had a game-high 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting. She had 20 points by halftime and knocked down three 3-pointers. She was 7 of 10 from the free-throw line.
Alana Mocchi had eight points and six rebounds, and Madi O'Brien had four points off the bench. No other Wolves player had more than three points.
Prairie Ridge cut Marengo's lead to 51-49 on a steal and bucket from Mocchi with 2:31 to go. Karlblom scored her last bucket with 1:27 left, making the score 53-51. The Wolves couldn't get any closer.
Heinberg had six points in the fourth quarter and made four free throws in the final minute. Sophomore guard Gracie Gentleman, a transfer from St. Viator, led the Indians with 14 points and three 3s.
The Indians graduated six from last year's team that went 24-7, tying for the Kishwaukee River Conference championship and winning back-to-back regional titles.
"We're just mixing really well," Gentleman said. "We're still trying to build friendships and learning how to play as a team."
STAR OF THE GAME
Gracie Gentleman, Marengo, so., G
Gentleman was one of four to score in double figures for Marengo. She led the Indians with 14 points and three 3-pointers.
28: Prairie Ridge sophomore Karsen Karlblom poured in a game-high 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
AND ANOTHER THING …
Karlbom (71) and Marengo’s Jennifer Heinberg (64) finished second and third, respectively, among area players in 3s last season.
Burlington Central Thanksgiving Tournament
Marengo 57, Prairie Ridge 51
PRAIRIE RIDGE (51)
Karlblom 9 7-10 28, Mocchi 3 2-2 8, O'Brien 2 0-0 4, Nanos 1 0-0 3, Gablenz 1 0-0 2, Pollack 1 0-0 2, Kay 1 0-0 2, Gende 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 9-12 51.
Heinberg 2 6-6 11, Parker 4 4-5 12, Gentleman 5 1-2 14, Johnson 3 0-1 7, Morris 5 2-4 12, Coffman 0 1-2 1. Totals: 19 14-20 57.
Prairie Ridge 12 12 11 16 – 51
Marengo 11 22 10 14 – 57
3-point goals: Prairie Ridge 4 (Karlblom 3, Nanos), Marengo 5 (Gentleman 3, Heinberg, Johnson). Total fouls: Prairie Ridge 16, Marengo 10.