Team secures first ever regional championship victory
Coach Jessica Yonkers and the Lady Rams have taken Rockford High School athletics to new heights this week. For the first time in the history of Rockford High School, the girls basketball team has advanced into and won a state regional final game. Only eight schools remain standing in Class A, on their way to one winning the state championship. Rockford has advanced into the state quarterfinals Tuesday, March 16.
The regional final game found the Lady Rams playing Marquette (21-2), who had averaged 65 points per game. Marquette had scored over 90 points while limiting opponents to well under 40 several times this season. In fact, the Redettes from the Upper Peninsula, had been winning games by a margin of 25 points all season long, were on a 17-game winning streak, and not lost a game since December 29, 2009.
The Region II championship game started with a furious pace, Marquette defending with full court pressure. Marquette drew first blood on a steal and a drive to the basket for a quick two points. Rockford, steadying themselves and employing their smothering defense, went to work. Marquette’s center, Daina Grazulis at 6’ 4”, should have been an offensive weapon, but she was unable to post up low against the tough inside Ram defense. Unable to go low, the Redettes were forced to rely on outside scoring. The first quarter ended with Marquette on top 13-12.
The Rams’ offense opened up throughout the second quarter with Kimberly Weston hitting two three-pointers, Rachel Henry scoring two big buckets from inside, Megan Kelly hitting two buckets from mid range, Caitlyn Patterson pounding points in from close range, Allison Huyser scoring inside with her usual strong game, and Halle Peterson hitting a 15-footer from the base line. Rockford’s defense held Marquette to only four second-quarter points. By halftime, Rockford had regained the lead 24-17.
If offense was on display in the first half, the second half featured a defensive battle by both teams. Midway through the third stanza, foul trouble became an issue for the Rams. Coach Yonkers then went to her bench, substituting players at the right times during the last part of the third quarter and all of the fourth. The third quarter ended with Rockford on top 28-20, holding Marquette to three points.
With 6:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, Rockford led 32-22. Marquette then scored seven unanswered points, resulting in a 32-29 Rams lead with 1:15 on the clock. Once again, the signature Rockford defense came up big, shutting Marquette down. With little time remaining, Peterson grabbed a rebound, was fouled and went to the charity line. She sank the foul shot, sealing a Ram victory, 33-29.
The balanced scoring attack for Rockford included Weston with 6, Henry 6, Patterson 6, A. Huyser 5, Kelly 4, Peterson 4, and Kate Huyser 2.
Rockford (23-3), moved into state quarterfinal action against the East Lansing Trojans (24-1) on Tuesday, March 16, at Caledonia High School. Watch next week’s Squire for results.