PERU — The St. Bede Lady Bruins hadn’t stepped onto the court for 14 days, their last game or practice on Feb. 24 due to a COVID-19 pause.
On Thursday night, the Lady Bruins looked like they didn’t miss a beat, defeating Princeton 38-30. Only the critical eye of coach Tom McGunnigal would have seen any rust.
“I could tell,” McGunnigal said with a laugh. “They were strong. They were resilient. We literally hadn’t touched the ball until 4:30 tonight with the restrictions we had. The group is together. They’ve played together for a bit of a time, so they’re comfortable with each other. They understood and Lia (Bosnich) kind of took command on the scoring side.”
McGunnigal said the Lady Bruins looked especially sharp defensively, holding Princeton to seven points in the first half.
“Defensively, I was real happy how active we were. Defense always travels. We certainly needed that tonight and thought we played well,” he said. “Princeton’s got some really good shooters on the outside, and really any of those five girls that come out on the floor can stretch and take shots. So we wanted to make sure we got them a little uncomfortable, get them off kilter, ran at them and rushed their shots a little bit.
“And then we rebounded. Got to rebound. Can’t get them second-chance opportunities, and we took care of the boards with Lia and Ryann (Stoudt) inside.”
McGunnigal said all in all he was pleasantly surprised how well they played after the long layoff.
“Our shots were off a little bit, but we don’t shoot that well anyway, especially from the free-throw line,” he said.
The Lady Bruins received some extra incentive when junior teammate Renn Ludford walked into the gym between games after recovering from a horrific accident on Feb. 25.
McGunnigal walked across the floor to greet her and became emotional talking about her after.
“We haven’t seen her since (the accident). …. I’m so happy she’s here,” he said with his voice cracking.
The junior post Bosnich carried the load for the Lady Bruins with a game-high 20 points, eight in the first half and six each in the second and third quarters.
St. Bede (6-3) made its big run in the second quarter, scoring 10 answered points to turn a four-point lead into 14.
Teghan Tillman, the only senior to be recognized on senior night, got the ball rolling with 3-pointer, and Bosnich hooped twice in a row, making it 16-5 at the 6:22 mark. A drive on the left baseline by Abbie George and free throw by Miranda Mazzorana made it 19-5 with 2:45 left in the half.
The Tigresses were shut out for more than six minutes of the second quarter before junior McKenzie Hecht scored on a drive to close out the first half at 19-7.
PHS senior guard Brynn Hieronymus hit a 3-pointer and passed to classmate Taylor Quiram for a reverse layup to make it 21-12. Bosnich flexed her inside muscle with three straight hoops, and Tillman had a prayer answered at the buzzer to make it 27-16 at quarter’s end.
PHS found its way in the fourth quarter, outscoring St. Bede 14-9 to close within eight five times, but could not get any closer. Hecht scored nine of her team-high 14 in the final quarter.
“We talked at halftime how we wanted to end our season, win or lose, and how that felt like, and I thought the girls played much better in the second half,” PHS coach Tiffany Gonigam said. “We were able to cut into the lead they had a little bit, which is little bit of a numerical win, something you can actually see.
“Even without that tangible score, I was just really happy with the effort the girls had all the way through the end trying to fight and claw their way back in. Looking to take ownership of the game, rather than just kind of being on the defense all the time.”
PHS managed to get 10 games in, not necessarily the 10 that were originally scheduled in the midst of the COVID-19 craziness, which was a win in itself in Gonigam’s eyes.
“That first practice, I didn’t know what it would bring,” she said. “I knew the idea of what we wanted. The most important thing to me was getting in a game and celebrating our seniors. Lots of schedule changes. But to think we played a full 10-game slate … We were able to see progress. We were able to compete. We had fun.
“The kids worked hard. That is something you can leave feeling good about. Five weeks or not, we feel like after tonight we accomplished some things. We wished we could keep going, but we we feel good about what happened.”
McGunnigal was pleased the Lady Bruins were able to play again before the season was out in a year of crazy turns.
“We’ll lace them one more time (Friday) night (at Bloomington Central Catholic), and if there’s anybody out there to play Saturday, we’ll play them,” he said. “There’s the realization over the last 14 days that how quickly it can be taken away from you. I’ve thought about that.
“We started out with individual workouts. ‘Are we going to play, are we going to play?’ (to) ‘Hey we’re going to play. We’re not playing for the postseason. Hey, now it’s all gone.’ “
Notes: Tilman signed earlier in the day to play for IVCC. … The PHS sophomores won 32-26 to finish undefeated at 8-0 and run their TRAC East record over two years to 18-0. Erin May scored 12 points for PHS while Ali Bosnich had 11 for St. Bede. … McGunnigal now stands 46-3 in 23 years against PHS.
Source: The Daily Chronicle