BY CHAD DARE
Every coach stresses teamwork and they always talk about how each player has a role.
On Friday night, the Armstrong-Potomac Trojans accomplished their team goal with a 37-32 victory over the Georgetown-Ridge Farm Buffaloes in the championship game of the Vermilion County Tournament at the David S. Palmer Arena.
“We’ve worked all year to get here and tonight — we got our goal,’’ said Armstrong-Potomac senior Erika Sieberns.
And all seven players for the Trojans (15-7) had a key role in claiming the school’s first girls County title since 2003.
But, one of the biggest roles came from 5-foot-8 junior forward Johanna Bruens.
“She was absolutely huge for us,’’ Armstrong-Potomac coach Nick Hipsher said. “That’s an absolutely huge effort.’’
Bruens scored 10 second-half points and pulled down a tournament high 19 rebounds — 12 of those coming in the first half.
“Johanna has stepped up so much this year for us,’’ Armstrong-Potomac senior guard Kirsten Newnum said. “She has become such an awesome player. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.’’
And what about those 19 rebounds?
“That doesn’t surprise me. She is a beast,’’ Newnum added.
According to Bruens, who also tied her season-high in scoring with the 10 points, she knew each rebound helped the Trojans get closer to the title.
“I knew we needed it and we had a better chance of winning if I got those rebounds,’’ she said.
And while she was extremely pleased with the rebounds and the victory, Bruens admitted she wasn’t happy with her five missed shots in the first half and a 0-for-8 performance at the free-throw line.
“I was so frustrated with myself. I’m a better shooter than I showed tonight,’’ she said. “I knew if I wasn’t scoring and making my shots — I had to do something for the team.’’
And making shots was a problem for both teams on Friday night.
Armstrong-Potomac was 14-of-47 from the field (29.8 percent), while Georgetown-Ridge Farm made just 21.4 percent (12-of-56) of its shots.
“We struggled offensively,’’ said Georgetown-Ridge Farm coach Michelle Brooks, whose team missed 21 straight shots from the end of the first quarter until the start of the third quarter. “They struggled offensively as well. It’s just that our struggle came at the wrong time of the game.’’
The Buffaloes (15-4) led 11-3 after a basket by Catie Brandt with 29 seconds left in the first quarter, but they didn’t score again until a basket by Lexi Ovall with 5:52 left in the third quarter breaking an 11-11 tie.
“We didn’t score in the second quarter and I think that really killed us,’’ said Georgetown-Ridge Farm senior Callan Hall. “We really needed to score something during that stretch.’’
Both Newnum and Hipsher admitted that holding the Buffaloes scoreless in the second quarter was vital to their victory.
“Our confidence was down in the first quarter after having that not-so-good offense shooting,’’ Newnum said. “Holding them scoreless made us a feel a lot better.’’
After making just 1-of-7 shots behind the 3-point arc in the first three quarters, Morgan Zindars and Newnum made back-to-back long-range shots giving the Trojans the lead for good at 33-29.
“Those were huge shots. Both girls are capable of making shots like that,’’ Hipsher said. “We struggled in the first half and I told them to keep shooting. We had to keep shooting with confidence.’’
Newnum, who scored her only points on that 3-pointer, said she didn’t think twice about shooting that shot.
“When you got an open shot, you have to take it in a game like this,’’ she said. “We were rushing our shots a lot. We were just trying to get any shot that we could.
“Once we slowed it down and made it our game, we were fine.’’
And while the senior guard made only one shot, she also contributed greatly to the Trojans defensive effort.
Georgetown-Ridge Farm junior Brittany Hay, who 20.7 points per game in the tournament, was held to just eight on 3-of-20 shooting.
“I thought Kirsten did a great job on her, but the way we set up our defense, it takes five people to do it,’’ Hipsher said.
And Sieberns said the key was communication.
“We made sure that we had someone on her at all times,’’ Sieberns said. “We always knew where she was and where she was going on the court.’’
Maya Green led the Buffaloes, who were seeking their first County Title since 1991, with 16 points, including 11 in the second half.
“I’m proud of them for making the championship game,’’ said Brooks as it was the first championship game appearance for Georgetown-Ridge Farm since 1996. “It also was nice to see the fans come out and pack the stands.
“This will be a good learning experience for our team when the regionals come around.’’