‘Thom Thom’s club tops Southwood for 5th straight win
Senior scores 19 in return from injury; Jennings praises Lady Zs’ man defense
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Lexy Thomas came off the bench to score 19 points and grab seven rebounds, and the Rochester girls basketball team held Southwood to just two second-half field goals on their way to a 45-32 win at the RHS gym Saturday.
Thomas played for the first time since Nov. 18. She also scored 19 points in that game against Peru but missed the next four games, all Rochester wins, with an injury to her midsection.
She did not start against Southwood but entered within the first three minutes and helped the Lady Zs rally from an 8-0 deficit at the outset.
Rochester coach Brian Jennings had been targeting the Southwood game as a possible return date. Thomas dressed against Culver and participated in pregame warmups but did not play in the Lady Zs’ 58-23 win.
“We just wanted to make sure her pain got down,” Jennings said. “And actually after the first day we sat herm it took about four days for her to get back to a very low pain. So then we rested her again over that (Thanksgiving) weekend, and we started bringing her back slowly again this Monday. So she practiced a little bit Monday, a little bit more on Tuesday, warmed up at Culver Wednesday, practiced really in full except for a little bit of full-court stuff Thursday and did everything through practice (Friday). Everything seemed to be OK. We probably played her a few more minutes tonight than what we wanted to, but we knew she was available to play as much until the pain came up, and she seemed to be doing OK out there.”
Ella Haupert scored 17 points for Southwood, who fell to 3-5 overall and 0-2 in the Three Rivers Conference. Haupert scored 11 of Southwood’s 14 points in the second half.
Rochester improved to 7-3, 2-1.
Rochester took their first lead at 20-18 when Kennedy Jackson flipped in a layup on a drive from the left elbow with two seconds left in the first half, and they never trailed again.
Jackson outscored the entire Southwood team 6-4 in the second quarter. She scored nine for the game.
Clinging to a one-point lead in the third quarter, Rochester went on an 11-0 run. Kami Burkett started the run with a right corner 3-pointer. Thomas scored on a putback and then on a lefty banker. When Rily Holloway found Jackson for a short jumper, the lead was in double figures for the first time.
After a Southwood timeout, Thomas scored again in the post to make it 31-19.
The Lady Knights crept within 35-30 on a Haupert 3-pointer from the left corner with 5:17 left, and Rochester coach Brian Jennings called timeout.
That turned out to be Southwood’s final field goal.
The Lady Zs responded with a 10-0 run, which started when Thomas took a Jackson hit-ahead pass, faked and dropped in a layup. Holloway’s 3-pointer from the right corner off a Burkett assist made it 40-30. Thomas hit two free throws, Jackson hit a free throw, and Kallie Watson found Thomas for a cutting layup to get the lead to 15.
Southwood coach Kenneth Norman called Thomas, a first-team all-TRC player last year, probably Rochester’s best player after the game. He said she affects the game both offensively and defensively.
“I knew she was injured in what I’d watched, and she killed us last year at our place too,” Norman said.
He also had praise for Rochester’s defense.
“We have to be able to handle ball pressure better and be able to run offense because I told them it doesn’t matter what I call if we can’t handle that ball pressure,” Norman said. “And they did a good job. They got into us. And we knew this was going to be a tough matchup for us because we just don’t have the height inside. And they were going to get some easy buckets, and we had to be able to match that.”
Rochester came out in a triangle-in-two defense but switched to a man-to-man after Southwood jumped out to an 8-0 lead. Aleia Sweet had six points during the first 2:15 of the game, but she never recorded another field goal after Rochester made the defensive switch.
“We thought we’d come out and play a little bit of a junk defense and try to do a triangle-in-two a little bit and inverted the triangle because we knew they shot a lot of 3s,” Jennings said. “Just kind of daring somebody to step on their team. We tried to take Haupert away and tried to put some pressure on the other girl that normally tried to run the point. We thought we’d put some pressure on the guards out there and see if somebody else stepped up, and sure enough, (Bailey) Wyatt and Sweet stepped up and had a good scoring first quarter for them. So we got out of that, and I thought from then on we probably played some of our best defense of the year.”
In a JV game limited to two quarters due to Southwood’s lack of numbers, Rochester prevailed 19-11. Rylee Clevenger scored eight points to lead the Lady Zs while Audrey Bolinger added seven and Ella McCarter had four.
Rochester’s Emma Howdeshell and Maddie Heinzmann both had right knee surgery within the last week. Both are out for the season.
Southwood’s Sarah Perez and Meredith Norman were both out with injuries.
Rochester beat Southwood for the third straight year. Rochester has not lost to Southwood at home since Jan. 3, 2008.
Rochester 45, Southwood 32
SOUTHWOOD (32) (3-5, 0-2)
Ella Haupert 5 6-6 17, Alaina Winer 1 0-0 2, Aleia Sweet 2 4-8 9, Bailey Wyatt 1 2-3 4, Quinn Claussen 0 0-0 0, Lili Combs 0 0-0 0, Makenna Younce 0 0-0 0, Macy Barney 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 9 12-17 32
ROCHESTER (45) (7-3, 2-1)
Kami Burkett 1 0-0 3, Rily Holloway 2 0-1 6, Kallie Watson 1 0-0 2, Kennedy Jackson 4 1-2 9, Millie Scorsone 2 0-2 4, Lexy Thomas 8 3-5 19, Sydney Haughs 1 0-0 2, Lilith Eaton 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 19 4-10 45
Three-point field goals:
Southwood 2 (Haupert, Sweet),
Rochester 3 (Holloway 2, Burkett)
Total fouls: Southwood 16, Rochester 16
Turnovers: Southwood 20, Rochester 16
Score by quarters
Southwood 14 4 5 9 – 32
Rochester 8 12 11 14 – 45
JV: Rochester 19, Southwood 11
Rochester junior post player Millie Scorsone (44) shoots over Southwood’s Lili Combs (20) during Saturday’s game at the RHS gym. Scorsone scored four points as Rochester overcame an eight-point first-half deficit to win 45-32. The Lady Zs host Class 1A, No. 14 Argos at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. (photo provided by Dee Brown)