All smiles: Eagles show no rust, force 30 turnovers in victory over IVC

RANTOUL — As Jada Mosley glided in for a buzzer-beating third-quarter layup, it was a fitting ending to the period as the ball sank through the net.

The Rantoul girls basketball senior had just recorded her fifth steal of a game against Illinois Valley Central on Saturday, stripping the Grey Ghosts’ point guard before giving the Eagles a 34-28 lead.

It was the perfect microcosm of the Eagles’ afternoon, and it was even more appropriate that the turnover-to-layup came via the leader of the defense. Mosley’s six steals was part of 30 turnovers the Eagles forced, with three of her takeaways resulting in layups for the senior in a 50-37 win.

“I focus on defense more than shooting because that’s my role on the team,” Mosley said. “When I get a steal, I get so hyped.”

Rantoul (6-8) rode Mosley’s defense throughout the day and used the momentum swing of the quarter’s final play to break the game open in the fourth period.

“Her defense always helps us out tremendously, and  I’ve noticed in the first part of the season, it really gets her going,” Rantoul coach Renee Reed said. “When she gets a steal, she becomes more confident in shooting. When she gets her layups in, it’s a bigger boost in confidence, and she continues to build. Her defense, as a whole, is what sets her apart from everybody. And I think her defense is what gets everyone else going, too, because they all feed off of her.”

Kianna Berlatsky-Gorrell buried two three-pointers to open the final quarter and give the Eagles a 40-31 edge. Then, with less than four minutes remaining, the Eagles scored on three straight possessions to put the game out of reach — Myejoi Williams (eight points) converted a putback layup and another bucket on a baseline out-of-bounds play, and Courtney Sutherland (11 points) hit a short jumper for a 48-35 advantage with 2:10 left.  

Rantoul’s effort in the final quarter started with Mosley’s work defending the perimeter, jumping passing lanes and poking the ball from the Grey Ghost guards.

“She’s one of our biggest leaders,” Reed said. “She’s not so much of a vocal leader but more of a leader by example. They feed off that. She doesn’t really say too much. Myejoi is our most vocal leader on the team, and they respect her. But a lot of them like Jada and kind of look up to her.”

Emma Mihaly and Sutherland opened the game by knocking down three-pointer apiece, and Aliya Wright’s putback off a missed free throw tied the score at 11. Wright then pulled down an offensive rebound and fed Tanaya Young, who hit a floater for a 13-11 lead to end the period.

In the second quarter, Mosley came up with steals on two straight possessions, converting a layup on the first and then watching Sutherland knock down a three-pointer off the second takeaway.

Sutherland made another three before Williams’ drop step into the lane for a basket off the glass helped give the Eagles a 25-24 halftime advantage.

“I’ve been telling Courtney in practice with these last two weeks off, ‘It’s going to be important for you to keep shooting,” Reed said. “Nobody on this team is like you shooting.’ She’s that type of player. I told her I’m not going to try and change her game. She’s been doing this for a while, and this is my first year coming in. I’ve watched her over the years, and threes are her thing.”

The Eagles shot 10-for-33 from the field and 1-for-7 at the free throw line in the first half, and ball security was an issue that kept IVC within striking distance — Rantoul committed 10 turnovers in the half while forcing 15.

But in the third quarter, the Eagles committed just two turnovers and forced eight, including a Young steal-and-layup, despite shooting 4-for-18 in the quarter. Rantoul finished the game 20-for-70 on field goal attempts and 4-for-15 at the free throw line.

“That’s way more than we’ve ever shot,” Reed said of the 70 attempts. “I’ve said we’ve been trying to constantly work at being more fast-paced so we get more (points) in transition. It’s a better opportunity to put points up, but also the pressure on them really helps. That’s our biggest change in the second part of this season so that’s great we could (force) 30 turnovers.

“Sticking to that man-to-man changes the whole tempo of the game. And having them get into transition instead of getting a steal and just walking the ball up the floor, that’s not going to work.”

Saturday’s game was the first for the Eagles since Dec. 17, a layoff of 19 days, and they had two weeks off from practice before getting into the gym Dec. 29.

“We did (feel an effect from the layoff),” Mosley said. “The first practice back was rough. We felt out of shape, but I feel like the work we put in paid off. I think we liked (the layoff), but when we got back in the gym, I think we were thinking we should’ve played in a tournament or something to stay in shape.”

Reed was not happy about the long wait between games initially, but she believes in the end the break was beneficial.

“At first I was definitely really upset. I was really worried about that because everyone else was playing in tournaments. But I think the rest really helped. Them having the rest time I think helped them physically and mentally, and it helped them get themselves together,” Reed said. “At first I thought, ‘This is going to be horrible.’ But as time went on, it actually helped us define ourselves and helped me process, ‘What are we going to do now?’

“This second half of the season, there are going to be some big teams and big games, and they like to push the ball. And I’m thinking, ‘We have the same speed and same all-around talent as them, so why can’t we do the same thing?’ These last two weeks have really opened my eyes and the players’ eyes, and they’ve all been feeding into that energy and wanting the same things that I’ve wanted.”

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.

Comments

Comments for this post are inactive.