Moline coach Tracy Sant Amour left Rock Island girls’ gym Thursday almost beaming.
Her team may have lost 53-35 to undefeated Rock Island, but the Maroons left with a confidence boost, and a moral victory of sorts.
“I think that they really came together tonight and tried to shut them down as best we could,” said Sant Amour, whose club trailed by just nine heading into the fourth quarter. “They played selfless and really communicated on defense.
“We just battled and never gave up. I am really, really proud of my girls.”
Rock Island (8-0, 2-0 in the Western Big Six) got 25 points and 15 rebounds from junior standout Brea Beal and 16 points from guard Chrislyn Carr. The Rocks broke from a 12-12 first-quarter tie with a 17-5 second quarter but got a bit of a test.
Rock Island coach Thad Hoover thought part of the reason was the player next to him on the bench all night, 6-foot-5 sophomore Anne Amour, who sat out with an ankle injury.
“Here’s the deal, I am not the one that writes all the columns on how great we are,” Hoover said. “They’re pretty good, and we’ve got a starter out. That changes everything when she’s not in the game.
“We were a lot smaller than them at every position other than Brea’s. So we need to make shots when we are in those situations in order to be impressive, and we didn’t make them.
“We played hard; we defended,” he added. “They scored 35 points.”
Hoover said his team was “absolutely not” looking past the Maroons.
Moline (3-3, 1-1), saw its three-game win streak snapped but did get 18 points out of guard Hannah Thiele. However, no other Maroon scored more than five points, including freshman starting guard Bralee Trice, who Sant Amour said set a nice tone with her hustling defense in Moline’s effective 2-3 zone.
Beal did not seem too alarmed after the game, nor during it.
“During the first half of the game, I was struggling a little bit, and I realized that,” she said. “During halftime, I am thinking to myself, ‘I am not going to force things, I am not going to do any of that. I just got to get it together, score when I can off the easy parts, which is rebounds and put-backs, and basically just go in the flow of the offense. Don’t rush and see what happens.”
Beal said the closeness of the contest early on did not surprise her because it’s a rivalry game.
“No matter what, it’s going to start out rough like that,” she said alluding to the Rocks' 4-of-13 shooting in the first period, including 3-of-12 from the 3-point line. “Plus the intensity of the crowd.”
Indeed it was a near full-house at the small Rocky girls’ gym.
Beal said the Rocks might have somewhat looked a bit past the Maroons, before adding, “we don’t take them for granted. They’re a better team than last year, and they did get a little run on us.”
Rock Island finished with a 7-of-28 night from the 3-point line and shot less than 40 percent from the field on 20 of 54. But Moline made only 12 of 30 from the field and just 7-of-13 from the free throw line. Plus the Rocks outrebounded Moline 33-20 and caused Moline to cough up the ball five more times than the Rocks did.
Still, Sant Amour appeared to see the loss as a moral victory for her team.
“I am proud of them, I am,” she said. “We are going against one of the better teams in the state, and we gave them a game. So I am pretty happy.”