Lakota East girls basketball beats Badin in Queen City Tip-off

SYCAMORE — Dan Wallace left Sycamore High School on Saturday night with the relief that his Lakota East Thunderhawks are where they need to be in the early going.

Tom Sunderman said his youthful Badin Rams will have to use every bit of practice in preparation for a lengthy 2023-2024 journey.

Phoebe Towe knocked down a school-record six 3-pointers to go with her team-high 18 points, and Lakota East beat Badin 58-40 in the Queen City Tipoff.

“People talk about good teams and how they move the basketball,” said Wallace, who is in his sixth season at the Thunderhawk helm. “Our team, you can see a great team by how well they play off each other defensively. One kid gets to the next kid, and then one gets to the next. You’re trying to go one more, and there’s always a hand in your face.”

“This is exciting,” Towe added. “We went into it with confidence and excited to play. Everyone came out, played as a team, and we got it done.”

Braelyn Even scored a game-high 23 points to lead Badin, and Ashley Pate contributed with nine points.

The Lakota East defense forced 23 turnovers and held the rest of the Rams to a combined eight points. The Thunderhawks made 19 field goals on 14 assists.

“That’s our basketball team,” Wallace said. “Who are you going to take away? We’ll go to the next kid.

“They just play with all of that effort. They play for each other, and they trust each other. This is so fun to coach. They’re a team. They don’t win by superstars. They win because they’re a team. That’s what all coaches want. I’m just going to live in it for a little while.”

The Thunderhawks are coming off their best season in school history after finishing 22-4 and losing to Kings 49-47 in the regional semifinals.

Lakota East (1-1) returns three starters from last year — including senior Emma Fohl, senior Celina Blount and junior Brooke Asher. Blount, who is committed to the College of Charleston, was named the 2022 Greater Miami Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

“They just play so hard together,” said Wallace, who noted that his squad won’t tower over opponents as in year’s past and expects a couple injured players to return to the court later in the season.

“With four guards now, we try to press, move and get out and get after it. … We’re out there contesting with all of those shots. They fly. Their rotation is absolutely beautiful.”

Badin (0-1) graduated four seniors — Alyvia Hegemann, Lauren Grawe, Erin Beeber and Lauren Christie — who contributed to numerous minutes a season ago.

The Rams reached their third straight regional final appearance last season, falling to eventual state champion Purcell Marian 64-54 and finishing 24-3.

Sunderman said the 2023-2024 roster includes a slew of girls who have no varsity playing experience.

“We’re young,” the 16th-year Badin coach said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. Last year, everybody thought that we were going to be down. … I said all year, ‘This is probably going to be a pretty good team because of our depth and those four seniors.’

“We’re young. We literally have 10 girls who have zero varsity experience — and not even JV experience — from the freshmen level to the varsity level,” Sunderman added. “So we’ve got a lot of work. The effort here wasn’t bad, it’s the effort in practice that’s got to get better.”

Even — the 2022-2023 Greater Catholic League’s Girls Basketball Athlete of the Year — averaged team-highs of 14.7 points and 8.5 rebounds a game as a freshman, and she’ll be expected to provide that same leadership this season. Junior 3-point specialist Gracie Cosgrove returns after hitting 73 shots from behind the arc and scoring 13.3 points a game a year ago.

Cosgrove was sent to the bench to ice an ankle injury during the second half of Saturday night’s action. Senior Shelby Mulcare is the only other returner with floor experience for Badin, while junior Brooke Sebastian is out with a torn ACL and may be back the first of the year, according to Sunderman.

“You always prepare your kids to be ready,” Sunderman said. “That’s just it, you’ve got to go harder in practice. We’ve got to trust. … It starts with our coaches, too. We’ve got to trust. We’ve got to trust our kids to get better.

“It’s Nov. 25. Nobody gives a hoot what we’re doing right now,” Sunderman added. “If I remember standing here three years ago talking to you guys, we were 5-9 at one time. We ended up beating Roger Bacon and Bishop Hartley to go to the regional finals. This is all about getting ready for the long run.”

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