Rachel Shonka scored 14 points and Yessica Hernandez added 10 more to lead the Schuyler Central High School Lady Warriors to a season-opening 40-25 victory over the visiting Madison Lady Dragons at SCHS on Nov. 30.
As with any opening game of the season, Schuyler Central High School head coach Dan Wolken commented on the uncertainties he had heading into the game against Madison.
“We had all of these anxieties coming into the game. We had the butterflies because we didn’t know how we were going to do," he said. "We really had the opportunity to see them in action. We came out and played the way I believed we were capable of.”
The two teams played on even terms for the first 2:30 of the game with the Lady Warriors leading 4-3. But baskets by Maria Semerad and Hernandez, and a bucket and foul shot by Shonka, propelled SCHS to an 8-0 run and an 11-3 lead after one quarter of action.
The Lady Dragons clawed back in the second quarter and only trailed 11-8 with 4:46 left in the half. The Lady Warriors went on a 9-4 run to open an eight-point lead at 20-12, but the Dragons scored the final four points in the half to cut the deficit to only four points at 20-16.
“I told them, ‘Here’s the deal, we were down a bit in the second quarter. We are ahead. Are you going to allow this team to win? You have two choices. Are you going to do whatever you have to do to be on top at the end, or are you going to let this slip away? Did we run all of those lines in practice for that to happen,' and they said ‘No,' " Wolken said.
Madison’s Riley Jurgens hit a lay-up with 7:23 to go in the third quarter cutting the Schuyler lead to just two at 20-18. At that point, Shonka and Rodriguez scored seven of their team’s next nine points, and the Lady Warriors defense held Madison without a single point for the next 7:23 to give SCHS a comfortable lead of 29-18 after three quarters of action.
One of the reasons for the strong third quarter was the play of Schuyler point guard senior Reagan Folda, who dictated the tempo of her offense following Madison’s first basket of the half.
“I was really pleased when we were ahead, and Reagan backed them off, took a deep breath, and told them that now they were ready to go," Wolken said. “She told the team that she was in charge as our point guard and that she would not allow Madison to dictate how fast our offense was going to move. She said, 'We will dictate the tempo.’ ”
The Warriors outscored Madison 11-7 in the fourth quarter to close out the victory to the delight of the Schuyler fans.
Wolken said that he expected a big game from Shonka because of her height advantage over the Madison players, but he was especially pleased with the play of Rodriguez who sparked the third-quarter run with her defensive play and her aggressiveness in the lane.
“I thought Yessica does what she does well and that’s what is important. We stress that, and we talk to each other about that. She drives the ball well, she hustles, and she is basically a girl that is always trying to find the steal," Wolken said. "That is what Yessica is and does. Everybody has a different role on this team, and Yessica is aware of hers.”
In holding the Lady Dragons to only 25 points Wolken said that his ladies performed well on the defensive end of the court.
“I am very picky when it comes to defense. There are things that we didn’t do as well as I thought we could, but we also did some things that I didn’t know we could do as well as we did," he said.
"When we trapped the corner, we did a nice job of seeing where the passes were going so we could work hard on taking it away. We work on that in practice, but during a game we just don’t know if they will understand it.”
With one game under their belt, coach Wolken was ready for game number two.
“I was pleased with our overall performance," he said. "Now it’s time to get ready for North Bend. They will be tough.”
The Lady Warriors travel to Plattsmouth this Saturday to take on the Blue Devils.
Doug Phillips is a freelance writer for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net