10 of 11: Badin girls basketball on a roll, two wins from state semifinals heading into matchup tonight

Rams face Columbus Bishop Hartley in Division II regional semifinals on Tuesday night

Badin High School girls basketball coach Tom Sunderman said he and his assistants are seeing now the kind of team they thought they could have back when the preseason was underway.

The Rams have won 10 of their last 11 games and claimed their first district title since 2017 on Saturday with an upset of Greater Catholic League Co-Ed standout Roger Bacon. They now advance to a Division II regional semifinal against Columbus Bishop Hartley on Tuesday at Springfield High School.

Badin (17-9) is two wins away from a state appearance.

“In the preseason a lot of people didn’t expect us to be contenders,” Sunderman said. “We had a really good preseason, then we lost two key players to injuries, we dealt with the COVID quarantines like everyone else and another starter missed a bunch of games in concussion protocol, so when we got Lizzie Meyer back, Lauren Christie, the two that were injured early on, things came together. What helped us is we were able to develop our bench. We had different players stepping up, and that’s helped our depth due to this.

“Us coaches thought we had this all along. The thing that’s tough now is it gets tougher as you go in the postseason. Each opponent is stronger as you get deeper into the tournament, so there are no easy games anymore.”

Confidence is running high, though, especially after the last two tournament wins.

Badin was trailing Fenwick by six points with under three minutes left in the sectional final last week and came back to win 39-36. A hot start Saturday against Roger Bacon led to a surprising 62-42 win, despite the Spartans beating the Rams twice during the regular season.

Sunderman pointed out the first loss to Roger Bacon was with a depleted lineup – both Meyer and Christie were out and another starter and a reserve player were in quarantine – but the team showed progress in a 55-49 loss on Feb. 4, which was the only loss in their last 11 games.

“As a team we are coming together finally,” junior guard and leading scorer Mahya Lindesmith said. “We had a lot of ups and downs like everyone else with COVID and injuries, but getting everyone back, we’re finding what we’re doing as a team and that’s really coming into focus. We’re playing with a lot of confidence now and we just need to keep pushing forward.”

Sunderman said the “whole team concept” is what he’s seen improve most throughout this season. The Rams have used 11 or 12 different starting lineups, which sometimes can lead to animosity among teammates regarding who is getting minutes or more playing time. That hasn’t been the case for Badin, as players continue to push one another.

Lindesmith leads Badin with 13.6 points per game, Jada Pohlen adds 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, and five others – Meyer, Maddie Thompson, Morgan Dixon, Lauren Grawe and Erin Beeber – chip in four points or more.

“If you came to practice you would see these girls really coming together,” Sunderman said. “The leadership is strong. Girls are believing right now, and our practices are loose but focused and there’s a family atmosphere in the locker room and practice. And the great thing about that is 80 percent of the roster is back next year. We want to keep this going as long as we can, but the family atmosphere is going to carry over to next year too.”

Hartley (15-5) is a tough matchup for Badin on Tuesday, though. According to Sunderman, the Hawks have a lot of size, including a 6-foot-3 center and a strong power forward, and their point guard reminds him of Roger Bacon’s Kylee Sheppard, a Providence College commit.

Badin has struggled against teams with size, so Sunderman is stressing the importance of controlling the tempo and rebounding, but the last two games showed how the Rams’ style is well-suited for some long runs and that could help against an opponent like Hartley.

“I’m proud of our girls making it this far,” Sunderman said. “After the last game, we enjoyed it for about 12 hours and were back to business (Sunday). We’re not finished yet. We want the season to last 12 more days.”

Twelve more days would be a state championship appearance, and the Rams have been talking more about that goal, the closer they get.

“We’ve all been talking about it, but we really are centered on preparing for each individual game,” Lindesmith said. “We’re preparing hard for this next game and just excited for the possibilities.”

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