Thomas, Hughes score in double figures, lead recuperating Lady Zs past Peru
Jennings, assistant coach Davis tested positive for virus
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The coaches and players healthy for now, the Rochester girls basketball team returned to the court to beat visiting Peru 56-39 in their Three Rivers Conference opener at the RHS gym Wednesday.
Lexy Thomas scored 16 points, and Emily Hughes added 10 for the Lady Zs. Kennedy Jackson added eight off the bench.
Emma Eldridge shook off three first-half fouls and tied her career high with 13 for Peru. Cate Wolfe and Carlee Marburger added nine each.
Logan Mouser, who scored 13 points against Rochester at Tig-Arena last year, was held without a field goal and scored just two points this time. Mouser picked up her third foul just 14 seconds into the second half. Sophomore point guard Brianna Bennett also picked up two first-half fouls.
After the game, Rochester coach Brian Jennings and assistant coach Ray Davis revealed they tested positive for the coronavirus. Jennings also said multiple players showed symptoms of COVID-19, though he declined to name the players or say whether they tested positive, citing medical privacy laws.
“He had totally different symptoms than what I did,” Jennings said, comparing himself to Davis. “He had a fever and the body aches and things like that. The difference I really noticed is I did lose my sense of taste and smell but never had a fever and never really had body aches. There were a couple days I was a little tired and got a little woozy a little bit. But other than that, after a couple days, I felt fine. It was just two weeks of sitting around feeling good (and) doing nothing.”
All Rochester players on the roster were in attendance Wednesday.
“Everybody bounced back and is in pretty good shape right now,” Jennings said.
The Lady Zs were playing their first game since losing to Northwestern 63-26 on Nov. 11. Davis was not on the bench for that game after developing a fever.
Jennings said he began to feel symptoms on the night of Nov. 12. When he woke up Nov. 13, he noticed his lack of taste and smell.
The athletic department shut down the girls basketball program from Nov. 13-26. It cited “COVID-19 concerns” but did not say at the time whether there had been positive tests.
RHS practiced four times in preparation for this game.
As for the game, Rochester never trailed. They led 28-16 at halftime, and Peru never got closer than eight in the second half. The lead reached 19 at one point in the fourth quarter.
RHS improved to 2-2 overall. Peru fell to 1-3, 1-2.
The Lady Zs are 6-0 all-time against Peru since they became conference rivals in 2015.
Peru got within 30-22 on a Marburger free throw with 6:07 left in the third quarter and got a defensive stop and had a chance to get even closer.
But Emma Howdeshell got a steal and held off a Peru defender to win the race to the bucket for a layup that got the lead back to double digits, where it stayed the rest of the game.
Kami Burkett had two nifty assists in the third quarter, one on a feed to a cutting Thomas that led to a 3-point play and one to Hughes for a 15-footer. Those assists sandwiched a Burkett 3-pointer from the right corner after a Howdeshell drive and kick.
RHS played a 2-3 zone for nearly all 32 minutes and the 39 points allowed were a season-low. RHS allowed 40 points per game last season but were allowing 64 per game through three games this year.
“We’re really struggling to find a defense that we can constantly rely on,” Jennings said. “After the Northwestern game, that’s what we were going to work on but then we had the shutdown. We just did a short notice, we thought, with our conditioning being off for a couple weeks, just playing that 2-3 zone and getting comfortable in that. … We were going to lean pretty heavy on it tonight. We were a little concerned because of Peru’s shooters. Wolfe and Mouser, they can hit the 3. So we were trying to extend out to them and play a little bit higher and make those post players beat us because we had some height advantage.”
Peru’s five starters ranged in height from 5-4 to 5-6. Rochester has seven players who are taller than that, including the 5-10 Thomas, who scored seven points in the second quarter as the lead reached 22-7 at one point.
Thomas also finished the half with a layup after Jackson zipped an assist to her with three seconds left.
Meanwhile, Peru was shorthanded with fouls.
“When teams go to their bench, it’s a struggle for a lot of teams,” Jennings said. “And that’s a luxury that we have is I can use a lot of different people. Sadie (Mercedes Brown) got in foul trouble, and here comes Kami Burkett a little bit, and Emma picked up two, and Kim Batten came in and did a nice job. But when one of their shooters goes out, it makes it easier on our defense that’s been struggling.”
Meanwhile, Peru coach David Weeks said his team failed to capitalize on the opportunities provided by the Lady Zs’ 25 turnovers. He also called the foul trouble “very crucial.”
“It took the girls from what we needed to get done ... and had to substitute more than I wanted to,” Weeks said.
With the game over, one might ponder a bigger issue: Can the season be played to its conclusion? While a vaccine might be available globally later this month, high school basketball players and coaches are not the community that’s getting prioritized at this time.
Jennings warned his players that just because the program has been shut down once does not mean it can’t be shut down again.
“It does affect certain people,” Jennings said. “People with underlying health conditions are a major concern. And the elderly are a major concern. The worst part is that it’s usually the youth like our basketball team that are the spreaders because they don’t have many symptoms or it’s like cold-type symptoms. So that’s the hard part with this virus. People that feel pretty decent can spread this thing to people that are weaker, and that’s what we got to still stay safe about.”
RHS also won the JV game 39-29. Kallie Watson scored 13 points, Kylie Coleman had eight, Sydney Haughs had six, Emma Sells had five, Elizabeth Weaver had four, and Madison Heinzmann had three.
Rochester 56, Peru 39
PERU (39) (1-3, 1-2)
Brianna Bennett 1 0-0 2, Logan Mouser 0 2-2 2, Emma Eldridge 3 7-8 13, Cate Wolfe 3 1-2 9, Jenna Watkins 0 0-0 0, Carlee Marburger 3 3-4 9, Kloee Cassel 0 0-0 0, Karissa Tomson 2 0-0 4
TEAM: 12 13-16 39
ROCHESTER (56) (2-2, 1-0)
Emma Howdeshell 2 2-2 7, Mercedes Brown 0 0-0 0, Lexy Thomas 5 6-8 16, Emily Hughes 4 2-6 10, Kaitlin Rogers 2 0-0 5, Kami Burkett 2 0-0 6, Kim Batten 0 0-0 0, Kennedy Jackson 3 2-3 8, Millie Scorsone 2 0-0 4
TEAM: 20 12-19 56
Three-point field goals:
Peru 2 (Wolfe 2),
Rochester 4 (Burkett 2, Howdeshell, Rogers)
Total fouls: Peru 14, Rochester 15
Turnovers: Peru 20, Rochester 25
Score by quarters
Peru 5 11 11 12 – 39
Rochester 9 19 13 15 – 56
JV: Rochester 39, Peru 29