Girls basketball: Alter tops Badin in GCL Coed showdown

HAMILTON — The Alter girls basketball team is playing without the burden that weighed them down last year. The pressure to repeat as state champion no longer applies.

“We’re more calm,” senior guard Riley Smith said.

And focused. The Knights started fast Saturday at Greater Catholic League Coed rival Badin and had answers for every Badin defensive- and 3-pointer-fueled run to take control of the league race with a 63-48 victory led by Smith’s 24 points.

Last year the Knights (12-1, 5-0) won at Badin (8-4, 3-2), but they lost to the Rams at home and in the Division II region semifinals. That loss ended a back-to-back state-title bid that many thought possible because of so many returning players. But it was a different team in a lot of ways. This year’s team is a lot like last year’s team, but a year older and wiser.

“We don’t have as many people like in our ears, ‘Oh, you guys won state last year. You guys have to win it,’” Smith said. “We don’t have to. We’re just going to play together as a team and just have fun.”

Those losses to Badin last year were not forgotten. The Rams, with their aggressive trapping defense, rallied from 12 down to 52-46 with 4:05 left. Then, as the Rams continued to try to create turnovers, junior center Maddie Moody found Smith open for a layup out of a double team and a three-point play.

With 3:05 left, Smith made the backbreaking play. Moody, who scored 18 points, missed the second of two free throws, but Smith stole the ball from the Badin rebounder and finished another three-point play for a 59-46 lead.

“This game was definitely personal,” Smith said. “After my teammate missed the free throw, I needed to get a big play to seal the deal.”

Badin was led by 3-point sharpshooter Gracie Cosgrove’s 18 points and Ashley Pate’s 14. Smith guarded Badin super soph Braelyn Even and held her to eight points despite missing most of the second quarter because of two fouls. The Rams are talented but young and have lost two straight.

“We’re a team in progress,” Rams coach Tom Sunderman said. “We’re not we’re not as good as everybody thinks we are yet. We’re getting there. We’re young. I like the fight we had.”

Sunderman’s young team and several first-year varsity players are learning his fast-paced offensive and frenetic defensive styles. He wants the young players to shoot when they’re open and avoid the turnovers that plagued them Saturday.

Alter co-head coach Chris Hart loved the fast start to a 19-7 lead fueled by Moody’s 11 points.

“Our kids we’re focused,” she said. “We know what we’re going to see. We know what they’re capable of. They prepared well the last couple days of practice, and I thought that focus showed in the first quarter.”

The Knights, however, suffered early foul trouble with five players picking up two first-half fouls. Smith and Moody sat almost all the second quarter. Still, the Knights answered Badin runs and led 34-27 at the half.

“We sat down and defended, and when they cut it to six a couple different times we didn’t panic, and we kept playing hard,” Hart said. “The pressure usually gets them back in the game when they scramble like that, and they hit threes, but we were settled enough. We weren’t settled as much as maybe you would want to be, but we were settled enough.”

This year the Knights are in Division III, and Smith is looking forward to playing different teams in the tournament. But mostly, she likes how this season feels more like the state title season.

“Most of the seniors have been playing together since second grade,” she said. “So just getting that chemistry back – I feel like this year is a lot better than last year.”

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