Tough present, bright future
SOUTH BEND — Facing a formidable foe, New Prairie’s girls basketball team knew its margin for error was incredibly slim on Saturday night.
The Cougars faced a stiff challenge in the form of reigning sectional champion Class 3A No. 5 Mishawaka Marian in a sectional semifinal at South Bend Washington.
In the first half, the Cougars scratched and clawed, staying close before the break and trailed by only 10 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for New Prairie, it couldn’t overcome its inexperience in the second half. Marian’s talent rose up, sending the Cougars to a season-ending 73-37 loss.
“Our girls went out and battled and did things well for as long as they could,” first-year New Prairie coach Todd Dermody said. “Foul trouble and things end up getting us ’til the point where we just kind of fell apart towards the end there.”
The Cougars (5-19) came out determined and went ahead three a few times, including 7-4. Marian (20-3) quickly rallied and cut into the deficit. New Prairie’s last lead of the game was 12-11 with 1:22 left in the opening quarter.
The Knights held a 14-12 advantage following the first and opened up a double-digit cushion with 1:34 to go before the break, 30-19. The Cougars pulled within 31-22 at half, despite some foul issues and turnover problems.
“The team we started the season with to the team we ended the season with, they took major strides,” Dermody said. “We got contributions from everybody in positive ways. Those are all things we can look at and say, ‘OK, let’s build on that for next year.’”
New Prairie was playing without junior guard Libby Lapczynski, who was out with a broken right hand. Dermody said the team hopes to have her back for the summer season.
Two-and-a-half minutes into the third, New Prairie dug itself a 16-point hole. But the Cougars responded, trimming the margin to 43-33 with 1:58 left in the quarter. Marian answered with a 22-2 run to put the proverbial nail in the coffin with the Cougars having no answer for the Knights’ aggressive full-court press and up-tempo pace.
On the night, N.P. finished with 20 turnovers and didn’t make a 3-pointer.
Cougars forward Sydney Meyers suffered an apparent head injury midway through the first quarter. She left the game and didn’t return until the start of the second half.
“For the time we had Sydney Meyers, she was awesome out there,” Dermody said. “She made play after play. She was only out there seven or eight minutes tonight and she still had a big impact. She had six points in probably seven or eight minutes. Maddie McSurley came up with 12 points and Taylor Nelson with 11. Taylor’s had double figures the last six games. Our two leading scorers are freshmen tonight, so that’s a great sign for the future.”
Makayla Weaver paced four Marian players in double figures with 18 points. Mckenzie Hudgen followed with 12 points and Jaiden Rangel scored 11. Christina Himelick chipped in 10 points.
The Cougars lose seniors Kailin Strauch and Abbie Siford to graduation.
“Those kids are tough,” Dermody said. “They have great mental toughness and are great leaders. It would have been so easy for them to quit, saying we have a new coach again. They’ve made huge contributions.”
Marian next meets John Glenn (15-9) in the South Bend Washington Sectional final on Monday at 6 p.m. The Falcons beat the host Panthers 36-29 in the other semifinal.
Even though his squad’s season has now concluded, Dermody is pretty pleased with the progress of the program.
“We did a good job taking steps forward,” he said. “I don’t know if we reached all the goal thresholds we wanted to reach this year. But at the same time, we made major strides. So we went in the right direction, and hopefully, we can just build that momentum and reach our goals next year.”
Class 3A South Bend Washington Sectional
Mishawaka Marian 73, New Prairie 37
The Cougars’ Maddie McSurley had 12 points and Taylor Nelson scored 11.