United Township was ready to get physical in its rematch with Moline.
The Panther girls basketball team has been toughening up ever since getting pounded on the boards, 37-22, in a nine-point loss to the Maroons on Dec. 3. Thursday night, the Panthers showed their new toughness.
Sophomore forward Ryleigh O’Brien ripped down 12 rebounds to help UT gain an edge on the glass and senior Jada Harris scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Panthers to a 58-48 win over Moline at UTHS.
“I knew we needed to shut down their big girls on the boards,” said O’Brien, who added five points and three steals. “Rebounding has been a big thing for our team lately and if we got our rebounds in tonight and if I got my rebounds in, it would lead to points and lead to us winning the game.”
Moline 6-foot-2 senior Lexie Gerard owned the interior in the first matchup to the tune of 23 points and 12 rebounds. She returned to the court Thursday after missing the previous six games with an ankle injury and was limited to three points and five boards while working her way back after just two practices.
“Lexie, the first time, she killed us on the boards and killed us scoring,” Harris said. “This time we kind of stopped her on the boards and stopped her scoring. All together as a team, we rebounded together, Ryleigh stepped up and rebounded and it was just better overall.”
UT (11-11, 4-4 Western Big Six) was coming off back-to-back losses to ranked Galesburg and Davenport North squads following a seven-game win streak and Harris got the Panthers off to a quick start by hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 13 points in the first half. Tied at 15 early in the second quarter, Harris hit back-to-back 3s to begin a 15-1 run that put UT in control.
“I made the first one and, you know, you just feel it,” said Harris, who was 4 of 5 from 3-point range. “So I was like, when I get the second one, if I make it I’m going to be feeling it. They kept leaving me open, so I just kept shooting it.”
Moline (14-11, 2-5) went on an 11-3 run to start the second half to cut the deficit to 33-32, but UT never relinquished its lead two nights after surrendering a double-digit advantage in its loss to North.
Harris, Davi Buchanan and Taylor May scored the next six points and UT never let its lead shrink below five the rest of the way.
“I thought we played a lot smarter tonight. We made some good decisions,” UT coach Carie Walker said.
May finished with 10 points and five assists while Buchanan added 13 points. UT finished with a 31-25 edge on the glass.
Sophomore forward Alannah Crompton paced Moline with 20 points, five boards and five steals. She was the only Maroon to score in double figures.
“They were prepared for us and they stepped up their game defensively,” said Moline coach Steve Ford, whose team has lost six of its last seven games. “I think they’re doing a better job offensively, getting more people involved, and they’re a lot better team than the first time. Give them a lot of credit.”