By Jeff Odom
The Freedom girls basketball team passed its first major test of the season by knocking off Class 7A-District 9 rival Steinbrenner 44-37 Dec. 13 in its packed gymnasium.
It was the Patriots (10-0, 4-0) first win against the Warriors (11-1, 3-1) since 2009, Steinbrenner’s inaugural season, including three losses in as many meetings last year.
“They came ready to play,” said Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke. “We came in and weathered the storm and finished at the end.”
Behind Georgetown signee Faith Woodard’s 24 points, the Patriots fought off a feisty Steinbrenner squad that gave their defense headaches after rallying from an early deficit.
Freedom opened with an 18-6 lead, as Woodard and Lauren Repp shut down the outside lanes for Warriors forward/guard Bailey Hooker, who was held to just four points, a career low.
“I thought we did a great job shutting down Bailey, frustrated her all night,” said Pacholke. “I knew that’s what they wanted their offense to go through, and Lauren did a fantastic job just frustrating the living day lights out of her.”
Steinbrenner adjusted and made a run of its own in the second quarter after Freedom guard Taylor Emery was forced to the bench with three fouls early. Sophomore center/forward Rachel Briere (16 points, seven rebounds) did much of the damage for the Warriors.
Steinbrenner outscored the Patriots 12-8 to close the second quarter, but trailed at the half for the first time all season.
With their leading scorer covered, the Warriors still stood tall to open the second half, keeping the ball in and cutting the Patriots’ lead to just four. But an 8-2 run quickly ended the comeback.
Woodard, who scored eight of her team’s 10 third-quarter points, said they knew they had to keep up the pressure coming out of halftime.
“We definitely came out early and tried to come out strong,” Woodard said. “The game is a game full of runs, and we did get challenged with Taylor with foul trouble and some of our shots didn’t fall, but I think we did a good job in recovering.”
Steinbrenner made one final push in the fourth quarter with a 10-2 run, but a late basket by center Bianca Igwe and success at the free throw line secured the Freedom victory.
“That team right there is probably used to scoring 60 or 70 points, but I told my girls I don’t believe it’s going to happen tonight,” said Warriors coach JR Allen. “I firmly believe this is going to be the first of four times we play each other this year, and my team hung in there and almost gave us a chance to do something special.”
On the boys side, the Patriots defeated Steinbrenner 51-39 behind 18 points from senior Stephen Odunna.
The Patriots (7-1, 3-1) never trailed after the first quarter and took advantage of multiple missed shots by the Warriors (5-4, 1-3).
“I thought both teams were tired coming in; we both played two overtime games (the night before) and our guys just muscled up some more energy than they did,” said Freedom coach Cedric Smith. “I’m happy we pulled it out. I didn’t know what to expect going into the game. … We held together as a team.”
Antwan Bradley added 10 points for the Patriots. Steinbrenner was paced by Keshawn Ingram’s 10 points, while Bryce Nickels had eight.
Freedom played at Plant Nov. 17, but results were not available by press time.
The Patriots host Chamberlain Dec. 18 and Steinbrenner hosts Sickles Dec. 19. The girls tip off at 6:30 p.m. and the boys start at 8 p.m.
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