It was a thrilling and physical game at DeSimone Gymnasium Sunday afternoon, and it continued the women’s basketball team’s historic run this season. The Parkside Rangers recorded their first ever Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament win with a 50-36 victory over the visiting Northern Kentucky Norse.
“It just feels so rewarding to finally be able to get this victory in the conference tournament,” exclaimed head coach Jenny Kenesie. “I’ve been here so many times, been coaching here for nine years now, and it’s been a long time overdue, but it’s worth the wait. This group has worked extremely hard, and I’m just really happy for them.”
As the North Division Champions of the GLVC, the Rangers entered the tournament with a first round bye and a second round home playoff game. Northern Kentucky University played in the first round at DeSimone Gymnasium yesterday against Kentucky Wesleyan University, and posted a 68-55 win to make it into the second round. The Rangers faced Northern Kentucky in a January match up in Highland Heights, Kentucky, and lost 60-62 on the road.
“We knew coming out that it wasn’t going to be an easy one,” said Kenesie after the game, “I think all week we did such a good job preparing. Our kids came to work every single day in practice. We were so prepared to see NKU, and it showed.”
Both squads came out very rocky to open action. The Rangers started extremely cold in this game, posting a 1-of-15 clip from the field ten minutes into the game. Northern Kentucky found themselves up by seven points, but they had troubles of their own. While the Rangers were having issues getting in their comfort zone shooting outside of the paint, Northern Kentucky drew countless traveling violations and offensive fouls to keep the game within a reasonable margin for Parkside to get right back into it.
“We got a lot of good looks,” said Kenesie after the game, ”Unfortunately, some of the shots weren’t falling, but our kids did a good job of staying poised, under control, lot of confidence, head up, because we had our chances to kind of just give up and put our heads down, and our kids were going to have none of that.”
After a Parkside timeout, senior guard Amanda Gibson hit a long two-point shot, which was then followed up by a three-point play by sophomore Brittany Beyer. The Rangers started to run, and sophomore guard Jadee Rooney not only blazed her way to the basket, but electrified the crowd in the process. Rooney’s effort at the end of the half was a major part of the Rangers’ 13-0 run to close out the half with a seven point lead. Rooney put up a team high six in the first half, and all of those came sprinting through traffic and laying it in from underneath the basket.
“NKU does give you a little bit of a cushion to rely on that size,” explained Kenesie, “ and we just said, ‘Hey, we need to take advantage of our athleticism, and take it to the basket,’ so we had a couple sets there where we were able to use that, and Jadee Rooney just did a great job of getting to the rim and finishing.”
Parkside, now leading by as much as they were down at one point, came out much more composed in the second half. The Rangers were able to do the one thing they struggled doing in the first half, which involved getting the ball in the paint to junior center Brittany Hogan. The Rangers were starting to get better penetration into the paint, and, all the while, began stabilizing a solid lead over Northern Kentucky.
“It was a great team effort,” said senior Amanda Gibson, “I just think we really showed that we were the team that wanted it more. We weren’t going to lose tonight.”
Nearing the end of the game, the Rangers would have three players in double figures. Jadee Rooney had a team high fifteen points, to go along with two assists, two rebounds, and one steal. Brittany Hogan put up a double-double effort with twelve points and twelve rebounds, as well as one assist, one blocked shot, and one steal. Playing in her final home game, senior point guard Amanda Gibson, whose clutch free throws capped off the Parkside victory, put up thirteen points, three assists, two rebounds, one steal, and went 8-8 from the line.
“It’s been an amazing senior year,” said Amanda Gibson, “I couldn’t have asked for a better one, a better group of girls to have it with, and it just feels good to go out with a first conference win here. It’s sad, I’m going to miss it.”
The Rangers’ win puts them into the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament’s Final Four. The GLVC Final Four includes Indianapolis University, Drury University, and Lewis University. The only team the Rangers have not beaten of those universities listed is the University of Indianapolis, who gave the Rangers their first and only home loss of the season. The Rangers will be playing Indianapolis in a rematch of that showdown on March 6th in Springfield, IL at 12pm, and the winner will be playing for the GLVC Championship the following day against the winner of the Quincy versus Lewis match up.
“This whole season we’ve been making history at Parkside,” said Amanda Gibson, ”It just feels so good, but we want to keep going though, we’re not done yet.”
Keep up to date with The Ranger News for following developments regarding the GLVC Tournament.