As the Lindbergh girls play in the Class 5 District 6 basketball tournament that it is hosting at Lindbergh High School this week, the Flyers hope to benefit from their last stern test of the regular season.
Last Friday night, Lindbergh (16-8, 5-3) locked into a heated road battle against Suburban West Conference rival Oakville (10-14, 4-4). With two-and-a-half minutes left in the fourth quarter, the officials called a timeout. The game had gotten very rough throughout the second half, and the officals had enough of the shoving and the trash talk.
Calling both teams to the center of the court, official John Diffley wanted to say something.
Diffley said, “Basically I told them that they needed to settle their emotions. I said ‘It’s senior night and the game is close, and if you get kicked out of this game for doing something silly, you’ll miss a district game. You could cost your team a lot, so let’s calm down and play basketball.'"
It was a bold move, and one that not many high school basketball fans or players see occur. But it seemed to pay off as both teams’ subsequent play was much more level-headed. It was a much nicer end to a not-so-nice game, and, ultimately, Oakville won, 53-46.
It also set the stage for a heated district tourney. Each team was expected to advance to the district semifinals, but No. 5 seeded Mehlvillle knocked out rival (4) Oakville, 55-45, on Tuesday. Third-seeded Lindbergh routed (6) Fox, 61-41, on Tuesday.
Thursdays semifinals will feature (2) Kirkwood vs. Lindbergh at 5 p.m. and (1) Cor Jesu vs. Mehlville at 7 p.m. The district final will be played on Friday at 5 p.m. The Flyers hold the homecourt advantage and also have already beaten second-seeded Kirkwood this season, a 59-46 home victory Dec. 7.
As for Friday’s showdown at Oakville, the Tigers jumped out to a 9-3 lead, but Lindbergh made adjustments and kicked up its defense a notch. After the first two minutes, the Flyers found their bearings and fought back, with two steals from senior LaTondra Brooks and one from senior Andrea Klipsch. Two 3-pointers from Lindbergh senior guard Keonia Blair brought the Flyers right back into the game, and as their offense quickened, the rivalry heated up from that point forward.
Lindbergh head coach Bill Thoele was ready for the fierce competition. “Anytime we play Oakville, it’s going to be a tough, physical game. That’s the way it is every year,” Thoele said.
Flyers senior guard LaTondra Brooks made a 3-pointer to end the first period, and the Flyers were up 19-17 at the end of the first.
Brooks averages 13.6 points a game, second on her team to senior Keonia Blair at 20.1. Blair is a quick, aggressive player who is the key to a possible Flyers district title.
Unfortunately, Brooks suffered a wrist injury after a collision with an opponent in the second quarter. It sidelined Brooks for the remainder of the game, and potentially the remainder of the season.
Brooks’ injury jarred the Flyers a bit, and Oakville took advantage of the opportunity. Senior forward Audra Plassmeyer made three consecutive baskets to give the Tigers a 23-21 lead. It didn’t last long, however, because after the initial shock of Brooks’ injury, the Flyers wanted that much more to beat Oakville.
Six points from Blair, all layups through the paint, helped Lindbergh maintain a 29-27 lead over Oakville at the half. Blair would score 20 points this game.
The Flyers ran a full-court press for the game’s entirety, and their offense was comprised of quick passes and lane penetration from different players. “We’re a fast-paced team. We play 90 feet, and we push the ball and get in transition,” Thoele commented.
“We got slowed down a little bit in the second half. And it doesn’t help losing LaTondra Brooks, one of our better players.”
Oakville went on to stifle Lindbergh in the third quarter, outscoring the Flyers 16-6, and taking a 43-35 lead. The Flyers kept pushing throughout the fourth quarter, as sophomore guard Angela Black had her fourth steal of the game, and then junior forward Alison Ries had two consecutive layups.
Ries, averaging four points a game for the season, had 11 against Oakville.
Two 3-pointers from senior Andrea Klipsch brought Lindbergh within three, and then midway through the fourth quarter, the fouls started flying.
“It’s a pretty heated rivalry. When you play a game like that with so much emotion, when you play that hard, things are going to get shifty. It happens as far as sports,” Oakville coach Aaron Bosch commented.
“I just told them over and over again that they needed to keep their heads. I said ‘keep playing basketball like you have been playing all game long, and don’t let them get in your heads.’”
With both teams in the bonus, the referees called an 'official timeout.' Official Mark Rodgers closed the halfcourt meeting with: “There are two and a half minutes left. Let’s have some good sportsmanship for the rest of the game.”
Both teams took the words to heart, and although still very much a competition, the play on the court was more focused. Oakville went back to basics, and made their late free throws to win on senior night.
(This story has been updated to reflect Tuesday's results)