- Val T.
Without Howdeshell, Heinzmann, Rochester beats NorthWood
Thomas scores 21, Jackson adds 12
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Rochester girls basketball team wore special uniforms that said “Go Guard” on the name plate on the back above the number.
That was in honor of the National Guard, but it might have been an instruction on how coach Brian Jennings wanted his team to play.
Go guard. And go, guards.
With Emma Howdeshell and Maddie Heinzmann both suffering season-ending knee injuries within the last week, Kami Burkett and Kallie Watson took on primary ballhandling responsibilities in the Lady Zs’ game against NorthWood at the RHS gym Saturday.
But mainly, they fed Lexy Thomas and watched her score a game-high 21 points and grab seven rebounds while harassing NorthWood into 38 turnovers as Rochester pulled away for a 48-26 win.
Already leading 38-26, Rochester finished the game on a 10-0 run. They held NorthWood scoreless over the final 5:50.
Kennedy Jackson came off the bench to add 12 points for Rochester, who improved to 2-2. The win was Rochester’s first over NorthWood since November 2015. NorthWood had won the previous four meetings by an average margin of 27 points per game, and Rochester had averaged only 21 points per game in those four meetings against NorthWood’s vice-grip defense.
And they did it without Howdeshell, who was in her third year as starting point guard before hurting her right knee against Caston on Nov. 6. Jennings said the team's depth has been a strength, that certain players will receive more playing time and that certain lineup combinations have a chance to “sync.”
“Without Emma Howdeshell, I thought today our guards got a little more comfortable on the floor without her,” Jennings said.
Thomas, a first-team all-Three Rivers Conference player last year as a junior, was held to three points against Northwestern in a loss on Wednesday. Thomas herself has been battling an injury.
“After the Northwestern game, she was a little sore,” Jennings said. “We held her out of practice on Thursday. So I think maybe that day of rest helped bring her back into focus. I think she got a bucket fairly early in the game, and when she gets going early, good things happen. Really, if you look at what she did on the defensive end, there were multiple times she got tips and steals on the wing and the outside of our 2-3 zone down there. A lot of times, we try to tell the players, ‘Your effort on the defensive end really spurs your offense.’ You’re making plays on defense, and it just comes natural to make plays on offense, and I think that’s really what happened for Lex today.”
Sophomore Karis Bennett scored 10 points to lead NorthWood, who lost their third straight game and fell to 1-3. NorthWood, whose top four scorers from last year graduated, was playing less than 24 hours after a 52-38 road loss at sectional rival West Noble Friday night.
NorthWood’s only lead was 2-0.
NorthWood scored the first nine points of the second half to cut what had been a 16-point halftime deficit down to 28-21.
Bennett had a steal and went coast-to-coast for a basket and a foul. She missed the ensuing free throw but later added a 15-footer from the right corner and made two free throws.
When Joselyn Edwards dropped in a 3-pointer from the right wing on NorthWood’s first possession after a timeout, the lead was down to seven.
But Thomas scored on an air ball putback. Then she took a Rily Holloway post feed and scored on a layup. When Jackson banked in a hook shot, the lead was back up to 13 and would stay in double digits the rest of the way.
“I’m happy that I’m scoring,” Jackson said. “I’m happy that I’m putting up points compared to any other years. It feels good to help out my team by putting up points other than just passing and everything else.”
Jackson said the injury news to Howdeshell and Heinzmann left her “speechless.”
“If just keep working like we have been doing, we’ll get it all figured out, and I just hope that Emma has a speedy recovery,” Jackson said. “And so does Maddie. … I think it brings a light for everybody that we can do this without our starting point guard or without another sub coming off the bench. … We just have to hold each other accountable and do what our coaches have been telling us, and then we’ll be fine.”
Rochester took the lead for good at 6-4 with 3:55 left in the first quarter when Watson fed Thomas in the post for a layup. Sydney Haughs, who started her second straight game, hit a 3-pointer to make it 9-4.
Leading 12-8, Rochester went on a 10-0 run covering the first and second quarters.
Jackson hit a pullup 15-footer and then scored in the post off a Holloway assist. Two Thomas putbacks and a post turnaround at the outset of the second quarter got the lead to 22-8.
Meanwhile, the Rochester defense held NorthWood scoreless for over four minutes. NorthWood had 17 first-half turnovers.
“We finally got a chance to extend our defense a little bit in the halfcourt,” Jennings said. “We worked on it this week. We thought we needed some added energy going into this game, and a lot of times, if you extend that defense, that brings you the energy. You know, NorthWood, they’ve had a couple ACL injuries too, and it just happened to be to their point guard as well. So we tried to extend that out and just force some turnovers. They’re an extremely young team. We were hoping if we could force a few turnovers early, it would kind of hurt their confidence a little bit, and it seemed to work.”
Rochester also won the JV game 37-33. Rylee Clevenger scored 13 points, and Mia Howdeshell and Audrey Bolinger scored eight each to lead Rochester. Darah Strasser had four, and Ella McCarter and Cydnie Lamb had two each. Howdeshell’s 3-pointer in the fourth quarter broke a 31-31 tie and put the Lady Zs ahead for good.
Lady Z notes
Elizabeth Weaver missed her second straight game due to illness.
Lillith Eaton scored her first career varsity point on a fourth quarter free throw.
Rochester had a 17-6 advantage in bench points.
As part of the National Guard-sponsored activities, players from both sides unfurled a large flag as part of the presentation of colors as the national anthem played before the game.
Given all the injuries, Jennings said that some JV players would be brought up to the varsity for practice and that some JV players would be elevated to the varsity for games “before too long.”
Rochester’s next three games are on the road. The Maconaquah game on Saturday will start at 11 a.m./12:30 p.m. (JV/Varsity) and will be played at Maconaquah’s auxiliary gym.
Rochester 48, NorthWood 26
NORTHWOOD (26) (1-3)
Joselyn Edwards 1 1-2 4, Hannah Chupp 0 0-0 0, Karis Bennett 4 2-4 10, Aaliyah Bonner 0 0-3 0, Claire Payne 3 0-0 6, Julia Wingard 1 0-0 2, Kailey Martin 0 0-0 0, Brooklyn Redd 2 0-2 4, Riley Kitson 0 0-0 0
TEAM: 11 3-11 26
ROCHESTER (48) (2-2)
Kami Burkett 1 0-2 3, Rily Holloway 0 0-0 0, Kallie Watson 1 0-0 2, Sydney Haughs 2 0-0 5, Lexy Thomas 9 3-4 21, Lilith Eaton 0 1-3 1, Savanah Eccles 0 0-0 0, Kennedy Jackson 5 2-2 12, Millie Scorsone 2 0-2 4
TEAM: 20 6-13 48
Three-point field goals:
NorthWood 1 (Edwards),
Rochester 2 (Haughs, Burkett)
Total fouls: NorthWood 14, Rochester 17
Turnovers: NorthWood 38, Rochester 21
Score by quarters
NorthWood 8 4 11 3 – 26
Rochester 16 12 8 12 – 48
JV: Rochester 37, NorthWood 33
Watch Game Here:
Rochester’s Sydney Haughs looks to pass around NorthWood’s Kailey Martin (12) during the Lady Zs’ 48-26 win at the RHS gym Saturday. Haughs made her second straight start and scored five points. (photo courtesy of Dee Brown)