By John Lachmann
CARLISLE, Ky. – The four-day layoff between the regional quarterfinals and semis this season may be the best thing to happen to Brossart.
The Mustangs were without first-team, all region junior center and leading scorer and rebounder Sarah Futscher because of illness on Wednesday, but they were still able to edge out Pendleton County, 58-51 in the opening round of the Region 10 Tournament at Nicholas County.
“I don’t want to make excuses, obviously we have other players that have to step up, but when you find out the day of – all day long, where is she? Where is she? It was tough, it was an adjustment,” Brossart coach Josh Feldmann said.
Stepping up in Futscher’s absence were junior guard Abby Stadtmiller and freshman center Emily Schultz. Stadtmiller scored 20 points and added six steals, and Schultz recorded a double-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots in 18-plus minutes.
“When we first heard the news (about Futscher), I was like oh my gosh, oh my gosh, what are we going to do?” Stadtmiller said. “Once we got on the bus we really got focused, we were like, we don’t need her, we’re got Emily Schultz.. She really stepped up a bunch tonight.”
Neither team led by more than one possession in the first half. Stadtmiller hit a three midway through in the first quarter, but the Wildcats answered with a trey of their own by senior guard Bradi Boden. Brossart's Schultz and senior guard Rachel Hartig both scored on stickbacks in the closing minutes of the opening period to keep the score tied at 15.
Mustangs junior guard Morgan Verst knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the first half to erase a three-point deficit, and Stadtmiller scored again 17 seconds later to give the Mustangs the lead, 22-20.
Pendleton County answered with consecutive baskets, but Schultz put back a rebound off her own miss with 1:15 left and Stadtmiller stole the ball and scored 12 seconds later to give Brossart a 26-24 halftime lead.
Boden tallied 14 of the Wildcats’ first-half points, but the Mustangs did a better job on her defensively after the break.
“We talked about it: We had to make adjustments,” Feldmann said. “We had to make sure we knew where Boden was at all times, and we started to switch our defenders. We put (Rachel) Hartig on her, which is one of our top defenders…and then I thought the key for us was the last five minutes, we went to the 3-2 zone and stopped her dribble-penetration, not allowed them to use the ball screen. They settled for jumpers and their feet were tired, I think because the press got them tired.”
After a 6-2 Wildcats run to start the third quarter, Stadtmiller hit another three, and a Schultz basket extended Brossart’s lead to three.
With 2:05 left in the quarter, Pendleton County again tied the score on a three-point play by junior forward Taylor McClanahan. Stadtmiller responded with another three, and after a Wildcats free throw, Stadtmiller traded a pair of baskets with them to end the frame with the Mustangs leading, 42-40.
Pendleton County again regained the lead with a 6-2 run, capped off with a senior guard Ashten Wolfe three with 6:10 remaining in the game. Brossart junior guard Madison Eisenman tied it with a pair of free throws and Schultz hit a foul shot with 4:34 left as the Mustangs regained the lead for good.
Brossart senior forward Maria Greis hit her only basket of the game on a reverse layup with 4:14 to play, making it 49-46, and the Mustangs would hit six free throws in the next three minutes to seal it. Meanwhile, the Wildcats missed four 3-point attempts and managed just one foul shot until the last 72 seconds of the game.
Schultz scored eight of her points in the second half and five in the final stanza.
“She’s extremely talented,” Feldmann said. “With her and Sarah…(Schultz)’s a freshman, so she’s had to pay her dues and learn the system. But she’s got great footwork, you saw her hands up front – got a couple of steals – she’s somebody that’s going to have high potential in that next year we’re going to get her as a sophomore and other kids back, she’s going to give us a huge lift.”
Brossart seemed to wear down Pendleton County toward the end of the game with its athleticism, although it took longer than most expected for the Mustangs to finish off the resilient Wildcats.
“That was our goal, but to their credit they handled the ball a lot better than I had seen on tape,” Feldmann said. “Their guards were really strong, but that’s what you get have when you have seniors.”
Brossart has four days off until its semifinal vs. Montgomery County at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 4. The Mustangs lost to the Indians, 50-49 in Alexandria on Feb. 11.
The extensive down time, atypical during the postseason, should allow Futscher to regain her strength and return to the Brossart lineup.
“We need her," Feldmann said. "No disrespect to any of our players, but you’ve got to