McCoy, Sabers get revenge
BLOOMINGTON — The game plan changed. So did the outcome.
In a rematch against a Class 3A opponent it had lost to previously by 14 points, St. Thomas More’s girls’ basketball team pulled away for a 70-53 triumph against Kankakee Bishop McNamara on Monday in the championship game of the State Farm Classic small-school division at Illinois Wesleyan University.
All-tournament pick Tori McCoy had a triple-double (22 points, 17 rebounds and 10 blocks) to lead the 14-2 Sabers, who are ranked first in Class 2A.
“Everyone is watching her slowly evolve into one of the better players the state has seen,” STM coach Chris Mennig said.
The 6-foot-4 sophomore broke the only tie with a putback at 5:41 of the first quarter to send STM into a 4-2 lead.
Mennig approached the title game in a different manner, pulling off the full-court press he likes to apply.
“Once (Khadaizha) Sanders (McNamara’s junior guard) gets a head of steam, nothing will stop her,” Mennig said. “We wanted to have her walk the ball upcourt rather than get behind us.”
It was a tough sell with his team.
“Because our kids have a ‘go-go’ mentality, they don’t want to sit back defensively,” Mennig said. “For them to stay with the scouting report, when they’ve practiced a certain way, is hard to do.”
STM did its running on offense, forcing the tempo when it had the ball. Elizabeth Bristow scored 14 of her 21 points in the first half as the Sabers opened up a 37-13 lead with less than 21/2 minutes to go before intermission.
“Lizzy’s been our X factor,” Mennig said. “On scouting reports, it’s hard to not pay attention to McCoy, (Randa) Harshbarger and (Lexi) Wallen. If we play a transition game, Lizzy will be involved.”
St. Thomas More opened each half with a 12-2 run and the Irish couldn’t keep up even though STM sent them to the free throw line 30 times. Sanders scored 14 of her team-high 22 points on free throws.
Defense — which forced 11 first-quarter turnovers — was the decisive factor. In both games against the Irish, STM scored 70 points.
“We were smarter on defense and our intensity was there,” said Harshbarger, who had nine points, seven assists and five rebounds. “It’s been a while since we all came together like we did in the first quarter. We wanted revenge.”
The State Farm Classic tournament championship was the second in a row for the Sabers.
Wallen had 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. She joined McCoy on the six-player all-tournament team.
“We were more prepared playing them this time,” Wallen said. “We want to come out and give the first punch.”
With a crowd of nearly 1,000 spectators watching at the Shirk Center, Mennig described the game as a “playoff atmosphere.”
Freshman Madison McCoy came off the bench to grab six rebounds, third among the Sabers.
“We got solid play off the bench from several players,” Mennig said.
It’s what makes the team special, Wallen said.
“Everyone on the floor, or on the bench, has the chance to step up,” Wallen said. “It’s pretty cool that all of us have our moments.”
Monday’s game was the ninth (out of 16) that the Sabers have played either a Class 3A or 4A team. Mennig’s team is now 4-2 against ranked opponents in a higher class. McNamara (11-2) was rated sixth in Class 3A.
The Irish, which closed the first half on a 14-0 run, ended the game by scoring the final seven points.