VANDALIA - For one half of play, the Anna Lady Rockets had Jonathan Alder freshman sensation Lauren Prochaska figured out. She was limited to nine points, and the Lady Rockets enjoyed a 25-21 lead.
Then came the second half.
The 5-foot-10 point guard scorched Anna for 18 of her game high 27 points in the second half, including 12 in the decisive third quarter, as Jonathan Alder advanced to the Division Three Regional finals at Vandalia, with a 54-39 win against the Lady Rockets.
"We started slow, even though we knew who their big players were," Jonathan Alder coach Terra McDaniels said after the game. "I think we readjusted in the second half."
"We pressured their guards well enough that they couldn't get the ball into their post players," she added, referring mainly to Anna's 6-foot freshman standout Sarah Schulze.
The two freshmen who drew the awe of the crowd started the game each with a basket, as Prochaska hit a short jumper, and Schulze nailed an 18-footer. After those two scored quickly, Jonathan Alder outscored Anna 8-4 over the next five minutes, as Anna was getting in early foul trouble, being called for seven fouls compared to none for Jonathan Alder.
Heading into the second quarter, Jonathan Alder led 10-8, but to start the second quarter, both teams traded baskets until the 3:00 mark.
That is when Anna reeled off eight consecutive points, including three-pointers from freshman Marie Hoying and senior Michele Nagel, who came off the bench when freshman Rachel Billing injured her knee during the first half. "Michelle is very capable of doing what she did," Anna coach Jeff Reese said. "She did that a couple of times earlier this year."
With Anna leading 25-18 with less than a minute left in the first half, it appeared that they would head into the locker room with the momentum. But Prochaska scored the final three points of the half, and Jonathan Alder only trailed by four.
Then came the fateful third period for the Lady Rockets, and if there was any doubt of her abilities in the first half, Prochaska quieted the doubters in the third quarter. While Jonathan Alder outscored Anna 15-2 in the quarter, Prochaska scored 12 of the points. She turned up the defensive pressure, and Anna had problems with the defensive pressure.
"What can you say about Lauren, she has the whole package," McDaniels said. "She has been improving her game since elementary school when she was playing against the guys, I have just been waiting for her to get here."
Prochaska knew that if their team was going to advance, she would have to elevate her play.
"I knew that we had to step it up in the second half," she said following the game. "We knew we could play better then we did in the first half." "We came out fired up," she continued. "We talked in the locker room, and we wanted to win this game. We just came out and took over the game."
The fourth quarter saw Jonathan Alder run some clock, and hit their free throws for the win. Joining Prochaska in double figures for Alder was Jessie Adams with 11 points. "They picked up their defensive intensity, and it hurt us," Reese said. "Plus, we were in foul trouble. Prochaska really took it to us, she is a great player."
While all Reese could do was helplessly sit back and watch, he acknowledged that this is just the beginning of great things for Anna basketball. "You know, nobody thought we could beat Miami East, and we did," he boldly stated. "Nobody thought we could beat Georgetown, and we did. These girls earned the state's respect for Anna basketball. This season was a tribute to their hard work. They came together."
While Schulze, who led Anna with 14 points, returns next season as a sophomore to lead this cast, she will not be alone. Also back are players like Stephanie Lehmkuhle, Rachel Billing, and Marie Hoying, the latter two along with Schulze only freshman this year.
"This has generated a lot of interest in girls basketball in this community," Reese said.