TROY — Russia was unable to keep up with Tri-Village when the teams played in a nonconference game in regular season. The lessons learned in that matchup helped the Raiders win eight of their last 11 regular-season matchups and earn a rematch with the Patriots in a Division IV district final.
Russia showed its improvement against Tri-Village on Saturday at Troy High School’s Trojan Activities Center but lost 52-43.
“We did a good job today and did a better job of limiting their runs,” Russia coach Andy Timmerman said. “… I felt like this game, we played for 32 minutes. We made mistakes and that’s going to happen. But (Tri-Village) has five really good players that makes it tough for you to guard defensively.”
The Raiders finish 16-10 overall. Their 62-45 regular-season loss to the Patriots came on Dec. 21 in the midst of a five-game losing streak. The Raiders fell to 4-6 after that streak but lost four games the rest of the season, only one of which came by a margin greater than double digits.
“We’ve improved a ton since the beginning of the year,” Timmerman said. “They’ve come together. I can’t say enough about what they’ve been able to accomplish.”
The Raiders had to contend with Tri-Village 6-foot-2 junior post Meghan Downing in the post on Saturday. Downing scored 15 points and had nine rebounds and five blocked shots.
But Russia was still able to find some offensive success in the post. Kate Sherman, a 6-0 sophomore forward, was one of three Russia players who scored 11 points. Ella Hoehne, a 5-11 junior forward, also scored 11, though most of hers came on mid-range and long shot attempts.
“I thought inside we did a better job of fighting through contact and pushing through that contact,” Timmerman said. “The first game, we struggled more against that. But I thought our post players did a better job of fighting through contact, finishing through and finishing towards the basket.”
The teams traded points to a 14-14 tie in the first quarter, but the Patriots switched to a 2-3 zone defense in the second and outscored the Raiders 14-5 to take a 28-19 halftime lead.
Russia got its offense going again in the second half. The squad pulled within six points midway through the third before Tri-Village extended its lead to 40-30 heading into the fourth.
Hoehne made a 3-pointer from the left wing and followed with a jumper shortly after to cut the gap to 44-39 with 3:33 left.
Cece Borchers, who also scored 11 points, hit a 3 to close the gap to 47-42 with under two minutes left, but Tri-Village secured the win from the free-throw line.
“We just kept battling,” Timmerman said. “The girls hit shots. Ella coming out and making that 3 was pretty awesome. Different girls stepping up is what we’ve had all year. When someone struggled in a game, someone else stepped up. Even in this game within possessions, we picked each other up. I’m proud of them.”
They’ll lose three seniors to graduation in Ashley Scott, Kendall Monnin and Katelyn Monnin. Both Kendall and Katelyn Monnin missed much of the season due to injuries; neither played on Saturday.
“Katelyn has had a tough ride through high school with a second ACL tear (this season),” Timmerman said. “She accepted her role and was someone you could count on to have a positive attitude on the bench to pick people up.
“Kendall started us defensively the last several years and that’s where she’s really going to be missed, with her defensive presence and how much she communicates and gets people in the right spots. It took us a little bit once she got injured to get adjusted to that, who was going to step up in her place.
“Ashley had a hell of a last few weeks for us, scoring in double digits a lot. Her shooting was great. It makes it tough for other teams when she’s shooting like that. I’m proud of all three of them for everything they’ve done for the program the last four-plus years.”
Saturday’s district final appearance was the program’s second in four years. The team finished tied for third in the Shelby County Athletic League this season and will look to be among the league’s favorites next year with almost every player back.
“It’s exciting. We just have to keep improving,” Timmerman said. “Just because they’re young doesn’t mean that we’re automatically going to get better. We’ve just got to keep working. If we continue to keep working how we did last summer into this year, I’m excited about what we can do.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.