The St. James girls basketball team (24-0, 6-0 Four Rivers) hosted Hermann for their Senior Night on Monday, Feb. 13. Seniors Kenzie Guese and Devin Fuhring each had phenomenal games, combining for 58 points in a 64-49 win. Fuhring also hit another career milestone, scoring her 2,000th career point in the first half of the win. She is now the second Lady Tiger to score 2,000 points.
St. James got out to a slow start against Hermann, taking more than two minutes to score their first points. Hermann had a clear height advantage inside, particularly with their 6' 2" senior Emily Engemann. She was able to control things early, but Guese was able to use her athletic advantage to help jump start things down low. She scored St. James' first points of the game and went on to score eight points in the quarter. Fuhring matched her with eight points of her own, including a three, and the Lady Tigers were able to take 16-11 lead at the end of the first.
Hermann charged back to open the second quarter, tying the game on a three-pointer by Emma Godat just over a minute into the quarter. St. James instantly responded when Fuhring knocked down a three of her own to retake the lead. The lead went back and forth for the remainder of the quarter, but Hermann was able to get the last shot and ended the half with a 25-24 lead over the Lady Tigers.
Fuhring scored her 2,000th career point in the first half and is now second behind Amy Rhea for career points in St. James history. Rhea has more than 2,600 career points, so Fuhring will firmly plant herself as the second highest scorer in Lady Tiger history. She was glad to reach the mark, especially on Senior Night, but was quick to give a lot of credit to her teammates.
"If I would've hit it on any game, it would've been special, but I was really happy to hit it tonight," said Fuhring. "In front of the home crowd and the community and the fans. It feels good, a big accomplishment, but I couldn't have done it without my teammates. I don't want all the praise for it. They're the reason I can do stuff like that."
The Lady Tiger offense slowed down a bit in the second because the tall Hermann defense collapsed into the lane, which made ball movement difficult. That changed in the third quarter. St. James was able to get out in transition a lot more thanks to rebounds and steals and Guese was able to catch the ball near the free throw line and drive to the basket, rather than catching it on the block and needing to work in a tight space. As a result, St. James quickly retook the lead and built a solid lead. Guese went on to score the first eight points of the third quarter, building the Lady Tiger lead to 32-27 in the first three minutes. St. James also played some of their best defense in the third, holding Hermann to two points for the first four minutes of the quarter. The St. James lead was eventually stretched out to 39-27 before Hermann scored again, with the run being capped off by a three from Alyssa Rinehart. Guese ended the quarter with 14 points, single-handedly outscoring Hermann in the third, to lead the Lady Tigers to a 50-34 lead at the end of the third.
"I'm proud of the kids for their response out of the half," said head coach Terry Wells. "We were out rebounded 18-8 in the first half, we knew that was a stat we had to win in order to win this game because Hermann is so big and strong and, not only Kenz and Dev, but all of our guards who were guarding bigger kids all night, in the second half they were out there going after rebounds and securing possessions for us. When we get defensive rebounds, we're harder to guard because Devin in transition is devastating."
St. James slowed things down in the fourth quarter to run out the clock on the win. Hermann tried to make a late push, but St. James had a response to every Lady Bearcat basket. Fuhring added another eight points in the fourth to help the Lady Tigers cap off a 64-49 win.
Guese led the way for St. James on the offensive end with 31 points. She also snagged four boards and dished out four assists. Fuhring wasn't far behind with 27 points and recorded a double-double by grabbing 12 rebounds. She also had three assists, three steals and a pair of blocks.
"They're my favorites. I do have favorites, I'll tell my kids I have favorites," said coach Wells. "The kids who invest themselves into my team, they're going to be my favorites and from day one they've invested themselves into my team, they've bought in, they've been there, they work hard to get better and those are the kinda kids that you love."
For Fuhring and Guese, it really meant a lot for them to have a phenomenal final game on their home court.
"To go out like that is the best thing we could ask for," said Guese. Fuhring added, "but still, we couldn't have done it without out teammates. No matter how much we do score...to end it with a bang and go out like that is great, but the win itself is what made it so special."
It could be easy for the Lady Tigers to get too caught up in their Senior Night win or look ahead to Districts, but they still have one regular season game left. They'll face off against St. Clair on Thursday, Feb. 16 in the regular season finale, which will be a doubleheader with the boys. Guese said they have to stay locked in to finish their season off.
"I feel like we've gotta stay really focused at practice these next couple of days," said Guese. "Coming off of a win like this, it's huge, but there's still our conference and it's still important."
Now that there's only one game left, the Lady Tigers are also letting themselves think about that undefeated record a little bit.
"Yeah (we're thinking about it) a little bit," said Fuhring. "But there's a lot of tough teams we're gonna see. Our District is stacked, Hermann, a team that we just grinded out with for 32 minutes got the fourth seed."
As Fuhring mentioned, Hermann is the four seed in the District, which means these two teams could face off again in the second round.
Guese - 31 pts, 4 rebs, 4 asts, 1 stl, 1 blk; Furhing - 27 pts, 12 rebs, 3 asts, 3 stls, 2 blks; Alyssa Rinehart - 3 pts; Q. Paulus - 2 pts, 2 asts, 1 reb; Riccetti - 1 pts, 4 rebs, 3 asts, 1 stl; Lindemann - 2 rebs; Fane - 1 reb, 1 stl