Bunnies cruise past Urbana Uni High before falling to Lexington in regional semifinals

FISHER — A repeat performance would have gone over well with the Fisher girls basketball team last Monday as it opened its own Class 1A regional with a quarterfinal bout against Uni High.

On Jan. 6, the Bunnies handed the Illineks a 50-12 setback. Though Fisher had dropped its last six games heading into the postseason, the Becca Clanton/Sidney Hood duo and squad's size advantage suggested more success versus Uni High.

Things didn't exactly start that way, though. Yet by the end of the night, the result was the same.

Senior Alivia Spenard deposited 12 points as the fifth-seeded Bunnies overcame a surprising defensive alignment and defeated the ninth-seeded Illineks 38-14.

"I didn't really expect them to come out and four-corner it," Fisher coach Ken Ingold said of Uni High (7-17). "We'd rather play a matchup zone. But we went man-to-man, and once we made a couple shots and were able to get into more of a full-court defense, I thought we handled it OK."

The Bunnies were limited to just two points in the first quarter and trailed 6-2 early in the second frame. First-year Illineks coach Brad Wilson deployed a triangle-and-two defense to limit Clanton and Hood, who were averaging 12.2 and 11.4 points per contest, respectively.

And the effort worked well enough, with the senior Clanton netting all seven of her points in the second quarter while the sophomore Hood was held scoreless. But Spenard and freshmen Kyesha Siggers and Leah McCoy (six points apiece) stepped up to fill the void.

"That's not really our comfort zone, but we fought through and found our way," Spenard said. "We were looking for the open people and just working as a team, really."

Even when senior Karissa Fredrickson, who nailed a key three-pointer during Fisher's 16-point second quarter, went out for a brief period with an injury, the Bunnies kept focusing on defense leading to offense. Uni High had trouble responding, especially when sophomore Emma Herzog — who recently potted 12 points against Bloomington Cornerstone — was sidelined with her own injury just before halftime and never returned.

"We knew we couldn't keep up the pace with them offensively," Wilson said. "We tried spreading it out a little bit, slowing down the pace, getting some easy baskets. But I was proud of the way they battled the rest of the game compared to the previous contest earlier in the season."

The Illineks were keyed by four points apiece from seniors Michelle Kim and Grace Qiu as well as junior Macheila Anderson.

Fisher, meanwhile, got to continue the 2017-18 campaign on its home court, with a semifinal last Wednesday against Heart of Illinois Conference foe and fourth seed Lexington. The clubs met on Nov. 27, with the Bunnies rallying through a first-half deficit to collect a 45-41 win.

Ingold said he isn't entirely sure if having a well-known opponent will help his girls, but he's also aware playoff games featuring league enemies can turn interesting in a hurry — regardless of seeding.

"You never know what's going to happen in those types of situations," Ingold said. "I think the more familiar you are, that kind of favors maybe the team that's the underdog. I don't know who's the underdog, but they're seeded higher than us."

Fisher could not overcome Lexington in the semifinal matchup, however, as the Minutemen shot 75 percent from the free throw line and outrebounded the Bunnies (13-17) 46-31 on the way to a 53-36 victory.

Daneigh Burk and Spenard led the way for Fisher with nine points apiece.

Zack Carpenter contributed to this report

clikas@news-gazette.com

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