SJ-O marches on
WESTVILLE — Bailey Trimble is playing for her third different basketball head coach in three years.
Ashley Landis is a senior playing high school ball for the first time since her freshman year.
Together, they’ve helped a St. Joseph-Ogden program that graduated four starters from last year’s 20-win team eclipse the 20-win mark for the second season in a row.
Their early-game perimeter prowess on Thursday helped the Spartans establish a lead they never lost en route to a 61-33 triumph against Georgetown-Ridge Farm in the championship game of the Class 2A Westville Regional.
Landis and Trimble drained 3 of 4 three-point shots in the first 6 minutes as SJ-O built an early 15-4 lead. By game’s end Trimble was 5-for-8 from long-range and had a game-high 25 points. Landis was 2-for-2 from beyond the arc and added 10 points.
Trimble, who played at Heritage as a sophomore before transferring last year, hopes SJ-O’s 8-for-16 accuracy on three-pointers will dispel a common notion.
“People think, ‘St. Joe. We should play zone,’ ” Trimble related. “We made a big statement. Whatever you play, we will dominate.”
Landis was able to make an immediate impact in her return to high school competition.
“I love the sport,” she said. “I played travel ball (for two years).”
When an off-season coaching change brought former junior high coach Jeff Finis to the high school level, she saw her chance to return.
“A new coach. A new system. I hadn’t missed anything,” Landis said.
The summer season helped Finis put the pieces in place. When SJ-O played last year’s Indiana state runner-up competitively in a close off-season loss, the coach said, “I knew this was going to be a good team.”
Returning starter Tori Master was a calming influence and 5-foot-11 Ashley Beals emerged as a force inside. She had 12 points and a game-high nine rebounds against G-RF.
The coach got the message across that there’s more to the game than launching perimeter shots.
“I teach the girls, ‘Don’t rely on the three. Take it to the hole,’” he said.
G-RF coach Michelle Brooks was impressed by what the Spartans did when they didn’t have the ball.
“Seeing our shots not go in, we struggled,” Brooks said. “We couldn’t hit, and mentally that took us out of it. They played good defense.”
The Spartans limited Brittany Hay — who had scored 74 points in her three previous games — to six points. Callan Hall led the Buffaloes (21-5) with nine points and seven rebounds. Teammate Catie Brandt added seven points and five rebounds.
Finis said it’s not a surprise that three of the four teams in next week’s Clifton Central Sectional are members of the Sangamon Valley Conference. SJ-O will open up with league foe Watseka on Monday.
“The top three or four teams in the SVC were really tough,” he said.
G-RF scored the game’s first points in the regional finals on a drive by Hay. Trimble and Landis answered with three-pointers for the first two SJ-O baskets and the Buffaloes never caught up from the 6-4 deficit.