By JEFF LAMPE
For The Weekly Post
KNOXVILLE – While winning easily is enjoyable, teams need to be in close games to learn how to win the hard ones.
The promising Elmwood girls basketball team experienced that this weekend, falling just short of winning the Knoxville Tournament.
After topping the host team last Saturday morning, 51-35, Elmwood (9-3) fell to Illini Bluffs in the title game, 36-29.
Elmwood led IB 27-26 after three quarters, but was outscored 10-2 in the final quarter.
“Early on we had a lot of good looks at the basket and they just weren’t falling,” Coach Gregg Meyers said. “We haven’t had a close game since the Thanksgiving tournament against Midwest Central. And I think we just got a little tight.
“It’s one of those things where we need to be in games like that where we need to execute down the line. Hopefully that’s something we can learn from.”
Mae Herman had 13 points to lead the Lady Trojans vs. IB.
Elmwood was much better offensively in its win over Knoxville Saturday morning, jumping to a 17-9 lead after one quarter as Melody Glenn and Bre Turner each sank a pair of 3-pointers.
“The morning game was the opposite. We got off to a pretty hot start,” Meyers said. “Then they made a little run at us, but we just kept going.”
Glenn led Elmwood with 19 points and got support from Liv Meyers (10 points) and Herman (9 points), who returned after missing several games with a back injury.
“That’s the first time we’ve beat [Knoxville] since I can remember,” Coach Meyers said. “We’ve got to keep playing like we did in that game, even when our shots aren’t falling.”
Ranked 15th in the latest MaxPreps Class 1A poll, Elmwood joins Tremont as the favorites heading into the Lee Westerman Tournament at Princeville, Dec. 27-29. Elmwood has two games on Dec. 27: vs. Midland at 10:30 a.m. and vs. Bushnell-Prairie City at 3 p.m.
“We’re playing some teams that have already seen us and some teams that are better quality, so it’s going to be a challenge,” Coach Meyers said. “And Princeville is playing much better, so it will be interesting.”
Speaking of the Princes, they rattled off an impressive 76-48 win over Lewistown at home on Dec. 13, the third straight win after an 0-3 start.
“The whole team played really well,” Coach John Gross said. “And Caitlyn Thole finally came out of her funk and played really well.”
Thole led Princeville with 25 points, while Jesenia Horton-Meza added 18 and Destinee Harwood tallied 15. Princeville shot 10-for-20 on 3-point attempts and was strong on defense, Gross said.
“We finally played like we thought we would,” he said. “We didn’t really press. We just stayed back in our 2-3 zone and shut them down.”
Princeville lost Monday at Illini Bluffs (11-4), 41-39, which has won 11 straight including a Knoxville Tournament title.
“A lot of teams got off to a slow start just like us for various reasons,” Gross said. “We need to find out who we are: The team that started 0-3 or the team that’s 3-4 now.”
Next up for Princeville will be play in its own Lee Westerman Tournament, Dec. 27-29.
“Right now, Elmwood and Tremont are in the championship game, so we hope to do something about that,” Gross said.
Farmington (6-8) got a needed win over Monmouth United sandwiched between losses to Knoxville (56-42) and Eureka (51-42) in the past week.
The Lady Farmers were playing without senior point guard Emma Evans, who is sidelined with a bad ankle sprain.
“She plays 32 minutes a game for us, is our point guard and she guards the other team’s best player,” Coach Brad Whitcomb said. “We tried to fill all those, but it’s a lot to ask.”
Reece Putrich led Farmington with 13 points, Delaney Foster had 10 and Anna Webel scored 10.
Against Knoxville, Foster had 14, Putrich 10 and Riley Jansen scored 9. Farmington was down just 22-20 at halftime before yielding several 3-pointers.
“We played well against Eureka and for the most part against Knoxville, they just hit some big shots down the stretch,” Whitcomb said.
Farmington lost just 42-38 at Havana on Monday, as Putrich scored 13 and Foster and Webel tallied 10 apiece against the team MaxPreps ranks No. 3 in Class 1A.
“Really happy with how we played and I am pleased with how the girls are stepping up in Emma’s absence,” Whitcomb said.
The Lady Farmers were home vs. Knoxville Wednesday, then are off until a Jan. 3 home game vs. Deer Creek-Mackinaw.
Brimfield (9-1) bounced back from a loss to Morton with a 65-23 win over Eureka back on Dec. 13.
“I thought we had control of the game the entire time,” Coach Maribeth Dura said. “I thought overall we had a better start and better defense, before scoring and better team play.”
The Lady Indians were to play at Dunlap on Tuesday and then are off until a Dec. 27 game against El Paso-Gridley at 9:30 p.m. in the State Farm Holiday Classic. The game will be at Normal Community High School.
Brimfield is seeded No. 2 in the small school girls division of the tournament, which runs through Dec. 30.
Winnebago, ranked No. 1 in the MaxPreps Class 2A poll, is top seed. MaxPreps has Brimfield ranked No. 3 in Class 1A behind Havana and top-ranked Okawville.
By JEFF LAMPE