Belmont stops River Ridge in regional semifinal

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By A.J. Gates


The third time was not the charm for coach Veronica Zinkle and her River Ridge girls basketball team, who were handed a 59-25 loss by the Belmont Braves last Friday night in a division 5 regional semifinal contest.

The Timberwolves, who had suffered losses of 49-39 and 56-54 to Belmont during the regular season, concluded the year with an overall record of 15-10 after going 6-4 to finish third in the final Six Rivers West conference standings.

The third seeded Braves went on to face second-seeded Wauzeka-Steuben in last Saturday’s regional final, where they fell to the Hornets 52-46, ending their season with a record of 18-8.

Against the Braves last Friday night, coach Zinkle’s squad had a hard time offensively keeping up with their hosts, as Belmont jumped out to an early lead and held a halftime advantage of 27-11 at the intermission.

The Timberwolves continued to struggle from the field in the second half, where they were outscored 32-14 on their way to a 34-point season-ending loss.

“It was a very aggressive game and it was one of those nights where we could not get the ball to go through the hoop,” explained coach Zinkle.

As a team the Timberwolves made 10-of-45 (22 percent) shot attempts, including 2-of-18 (11 percent) from 3-point range. They were 3-of-9 (33 percent) from the free throw line and were out-rebounded by the Braves 39-22.

Junior Reghan Zinkle led River Ridge with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the floor, while also pulling down a team-high six rebounds to go along with three blocked shots.

Fellow junior Melissa Sletten finished with five points and a team-high four steals, while junior Mandi Wehrle and freshman Erin Adrian each had four points.

Belmont got a team-high 19 points from Reese Runde, followed by Kaci Riechers with 18, while Morgan Freeman pulled down 10 rebounds to go along with a team-high four assists.

Zinkle’s Timberwolves kicked off tournament play last Tuesday night with a 64-36 victory over 11th seed North Crawford (7-14) in regional quarterfinal action.

Against the Trojans, River Ridge attempted 40 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, making 14 for a 35 percent shooting percentage.

They were 25-of-59 (42.3 percent) on total shot attempts, including 11-of-19 (57.8 percent) from inside the arc, and went 0-for-2 from the free throw line.

Coach Zinkle’s squad held a commanding 36-11 advantage at the intermission after her squad made eight 3-pointers spread amongst five different players.

Shayna Graf led the first half surge by netting 15 points, which included three 3-pointers, while Reghan Zinkle knocked down two 3-pointers to score six points in the opening half.

The second half was more competitive, as the Timberwolves outscored their opponent just 28-25 in the final 18 minutes.

Graf had herself a great game, scoring a team-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shot attempts, including 4-of-7 from downtown. She also pulled down a team-high nine rebounds and came away with a team-high seven steals to go along with four assists.

Mandi Wehrle netted 15 points in the win to go along with a team-high five assists, while Braylyn Quick , Erin Adrian and Reghan Zinkle each chipped in six points.

Zinkle loses two seniors from this year’s young squad in Shayna Graf and Hailey Woodruff, but should return a number of girls who gained valuable experience this past season.

“As a coaching staff, we are extremely proud of how this team continued to grow throughout the season,” coach Zinkle said. “We had younger players coming off the bench who became more confident, and we had returning varsity players that adjusted to new roles in our offense.”

“We will miss our two seniors, but we are excited to see this team further develop,” Zinkle concluded

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