By Will Willems
It wasn’t always a thing of beauty, but the Western Boone Lady Stars got the result they were looking for in the season opener on Tuesday night at Lafayette Jefferson.
The Stars held off a late Bronchos’ rally to win 58-55 to move to 1-0 on the year.
“I am so proud of our kids,” Western Boone head coach Rich Schelsky said. “We have some kids with experience, but we have a lot of kids in completely different roles. This was a great game for them. You don’t want it to get really tight at the end, but this was a great game to learn from. It wasn’t always pretty, but at the end of the day, we took that team’s best shot and we came out of here with a victory. I couldn’t be more pleased and proud of a group of kids for learning how to win.”
The Stars took a 50-37 lead with 6:41 to go on a basket by Maddie Wright and appeared to be well on their way to a win.
But the Bronchos started to come back. A quick 9-0 run got them within 50-46 with 2:40 to go, and a missed shot by Western Boone gave Lafayette Jeff the ball back with a chance to make it a one-possession game.
“We needed to calm down,” Schelsky said. “We got a little jumpy on offense and in too much of a hurry. That is part of learning. We had a mismatch out there and just had to reverse the ball to find it. We tried to do a little too much, too quick, but that is correctable. We are going to learn from this experience and I can’t say enough about how proud of these kids I am.”
Kendra Nicley got a big steal and lay-up to push the lead back up to six with 2:01 to go.
Madison Jones added a three-point player a minute later to keep the lead at seven and Olivia Hole hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
The victory was the 100th in the Western Boone career of Schelsky, who just started his seventh year at the helm.
“First and foremost, whenever you hit a milestone like that, it is all about the kids that I have been blessed to coach,” Schelsky said. “I am in game one of year seven, and to get to 100 wins is a testament to all the kids that played for me. I have been for fortunate to have great kids, great players and great teams. It is cool as a coach and when you are just starting out you wonder if you will get there, but all the credit goes to our kids. I have been blessed with the type of kids and talent we have had.”
To start the game, the teams traded baskets before a 12-4 run by the Stars gave them a seven-point lead after one.
They carried that lead into the half, but the third quarter proved to be big for Western Boone.
The Stars started the third quarter on a 8-2 run, forced eight turnovers and held Lafayette Jefferson to 4 of 15 shooting to take a 14-point lead after three. They held that lead until the the late Lafayette Jefferson charge.
“We made sure we stayed in our spots and our lanes in our ’13’ defense,” Schelsky said of the start of the third quarter. “In the first half, there were times we got too over-extended and left openings on the court. We just made sure we played good, fundamental defense and did a great job of it. Kendra is really long up there at the top and that can be a weapon for us.”
Jones led the Stars with 17 points and six rebounds.
Hole and Callie Gubera both had 12 points and six rebounds, while Nicley had 10 points in her first game in more than a year.
“I thought she played pretty well,” Schelsky said. “She got a little tired, but a lot of our kids did. I thought she did an excellent job for her first game back. She apparently likes this gym, because her freshman year they didn’t guard her and she hit a bunch of open jumps shots. Tonight, she stepped up and made plays and I am proud of her for that.”
Wright finished with seven points and seven rebounds.
Next up for the Stars is a game with Plainfield on Tuesday evening at home. The Quakers are ranked seventh in 4A.
“It is a huge challenge and a fun challenge,” Schelsky said. “We have nothing to lose in that game. It is a top-10 team returning every one from a sectional championship and it will be fun to see how we measure up. They are a different team than we played tonight and will be more polished as basketball players. They have two, possibly three Division I basketball players and whenever you have that you will be challenged. It is why we put them on our schedule, it’s why we do it early and we have nothing to lose. We are going to battle them tooth and nail and you never know what can happen.”