Red Storm downs Cyclones

Staff reports

BIGGSVILLE — As the West Prairie Cyclones and United Red Storm warmed up for their IHSA regional quarterfinal Monday night Feb. 8, 2010 at West Central the gymnasium more resembled a church or deserted island than a gym. The strangely quiet atmosphere was broken only by the occasional bouncing ball or squeak of a shoe. It was almost eerie. That eeriness continued for the Cyclones (7-21) all night, while the Red Storm quickly warmed up on the way to a commanding 75-43 win. 

The victory was an important one in the history of Red Storm basketball. It assured United (14-12) of the first winning season in school history.

“This is awesome, really awesome,” said United’s Rachel Kenney. “To think we won and might not have school tomorrow (due to snow). That is great.”

United head coach Dennis Mann said a winning record was harder to attain this year than last.

“We lost a couple of games in the tournament due to weather,” he said. “And with the co-ops playing together this year there are a fewer games that you think could be wins looking at the schedule.”

It was a game that seemed to be over before it began, something Cyclone coach Brandon Mize quickly agreed to.

“We didn’t have any energy at all tonight. We were dead getting on the bus today. We were too worried about the starters that were home sick,” Mize said. “We gave up 75 points, more than we have all year and only got 21 rebounds when we have been averaging 30-40.”

Mize said two West Prairie starters were home sick, which led to the poor play of the Cyclones. He did, however, point out a shining star.

“Erica Webster really stepped up tonight,” he said.

West Prairie senior Chelsea Derry, whose frustration was apparent in the fourth quarter, was disappointed in the team’s performance in her last game as a Cyclone, but pleased with Webster.

“We have so much potential. It just didn’t work out,” Derry said. “We were beat before we even started. But, Erica Webster really picked it up, especially at the end when we started playing together.”

It wasn’t just rebounding and energy.

“We had 19 turnovers. You are never going to win a regional game with 19 turnovers,” Mize said.

The Cyclones led 2-0, on a baseline jumper by Webster, then Mollie Murdock and Taylor Toops took over for United. The pair keyed a 9-0 run, Toops had two rebounds, two steals and three points while Murdock four points in the streak.

From there the Red Storm lead just built upon itself, growing to 21-7 after one quarter and 32-12 with 2:37 to go in the second quarter.

A 5-0 Cyclone run made it 32-17 at halftime.

“We were up 15 but I wasn’t pleased,” Mann said. “We got things going again in the second half. ... I wasn’t happy with Mollie Murdock’s play in the first half, but to her credit she really stepped it up in the second half. That is what you like to see in your senior leaders.”

As Mann said, things only got worse for West Prairie after halftime. United opened the second half on fire, dominating play in an 18-2 run as the lead reached 31 points, 50-19.

Gina Long reeled off seven points, four rebounds and an assist in the stretch while Murdock had four points, two rebounds and an assist while leading the attack.

The United lead reached as many as 36 points in the closing moments of the fourth quarter, 75-39.

“We hoped we could (have a winning season), we thought we could,” Murdock said. “This is pretty exciting.”

Long and Chandler led the Red Storm with 16 points each. Long added five rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks while Chandler had three rebounds, two steals and an assist. Toops had 12 with eight rebounds, two steals and an assist and Murdock added 11 points.

Webster led the Cyclones with 17 points. Derry had 13 and Megan Bowman eight points with six rebounds. Haley Calvert had five steals while Sara Dimmitt had five rebounds for West Prairie.