By: Tuesday and Friday
Andy Williams says, "It's the most wonderful time of the year." It sure was for me today as I watched 2 very entertaining holiday tournament basketball games at Central and Memorial. I started off the holiday basketball fest by attending the Memorial - Lebanon game at the Central girls holiday tournament.
I had heard they had scrimmaged each other a few weeks ago and it wasn't a scrimmage for a meek basketball person. Now, I know what people meant. Both teams are high energy, get in your face defensively and go at you offensively basketball teams. There wasn't much separating these 2 teams for 32 minutes. Neither team got a wide margin on each other for the whole game.
Lebanon is a team that doesn't wow you with their size, but they get after you very physically on the defensive end. They play close to your offensive shirt and try to force turnovers. With their smaller team size it's imperative for Lebanon to force turnovers and garner transition hoops.
After going at each other tooth and nail for the first 3 periods the score was tied 40-40 going in to the 4th period. An Allie Hartford runner made it 42 - 40 with 6:45 left in the game. Peace Kabari fouled out with 6:20 left. Bad news you would think for the Lady Crusaders. Enter junior Amela Imamovic. She laid a basket in at 5:45 to give Memorial a 44-40 lead. Imamovic then hit a 5 footer at 4:55 to stretch the Crusader lead to 46-40.
With 4 minutes left Coach Quirk decided to go with a stall offense. This turned out to be a questionable strategic move for Memorial. It played to Lebanon's over play defense. Memorial turned the ball over and with 2:38 to go a Lebanon lay up made it 46-42. A Lebanon steal then lead to a Morton 15 footer to make it 46-44 with 2:30 left. A 6 point Memorial lead was gone in the blink of an eye due to the stall offense which cooled the Memorial momentum.
2 Elezovic FTs made it 48-44 with 2:17 to go. A Lebanon layup with 1:20 left cut the Crusader lead to 48-46. Morton missed a 10 footer with 35 seconds left. Morton fouled out with 16 seconds left in the game by fouling Imamovic. It was double bonus. Imamovic missed the first freebie, but connected on the second one to give Memorial the 49-46 lead. Lebanon called time out with 7 seconds left, but never got off a shot coming back from the time out.
This game lived up to the pre-game hype with both teams giving a good showing. Junior Moriah Morton was outstanding in defeat. She was the high scorer of the game with 23 points. Morton is a high energy player who gets after it on the defensive end and squares up real nice when she knocks down 3s. Colleen Taylor had a nice game for Lebanon with 13 points.
Amra Elezovic scored 19 to lead Memorial. She helped Allie Hartford by bringing the ball up against the constant full court pressure of Lebanon. Hartford had a big game for Memorial handling the Lebanon defensive pressure and scoring key hoops in the 2nd half. Ari Dimou was strong with possession and hit a key 3 near the end of the 3rd period. Amela Imamovic scored 5 of Memorial's last 7 points in the last 6 minutes of the game. This contribution by Imamovic was huge for Memorial.
Lebanon impressed me with their tenacity and aggressiveness. They would do well playing in Division 1. Moriah Morton and Colleen Taylor would start for a lot of D-1 basketball teams. One has to wonder how good this team would be if they had the injured 5'10 Trina Scheie in the lineup.
Memorial moves on to the semifinals Wednesday night to play old intra-city friend Central at 5:30 pm. The last time these 2 teams met it was a thrilling prelim playoff win for Memorial last season. Something tells me the semi-final between these 2 Queen City foes will be close, intense and exciting.