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Russel girls start second semester with win

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

RUSSELL -- During practice, the Russell High School girls' basketball team has often focused on the fundamental areas that lead to strong offense.

On Friday, those areas helped the Broncos earn a 49-40 victory against a young and inexperienced Beloit squad in the team's first game back from winter break. In the second quarter, Russell hit its first seven shots and led 31-15 with three minutes remaining before halftime.

"That's probably the best that we have shot and passed all year," Russell coach Frank Schulte said.

Russell eventually finished with 28 turnovers, five more than Beloit. As well, the Trojans outrebounded Russell 25-21. But Russell's second quarter surge helped the Broncos maintain a double-digit lead nearly all contest. The Broncos moved to 5-2, set a season-high for 3-pointers (four) and came within one of their season-high for points.

"We have really been working in practice on moving without the ball, and throwing passes to people who are moving without the ball, and rewarding them for doing that extra work," Schulte said. "They did a very good job of it. In fact, we were running our motion offense against their zone, and normally I don't really run our motion against a zone."

In its last contest before holiday break, Russell lost 50-35 to Belleville-Republic County, ranked No. 2 in Class 2A. The Broncos had just nine field goals in the game. On Friday, Russell had more than that in the first half versus the Trojans, a Class 3A state qualifier last winter.

This season, Beloit returned zero starters for coach Dallas Cox. Russell, paced by senior Madison Beagley, led 15-13 after the first quarter and 33-18 at halftime. Beloit, led by 21 points from sophomore Kaley Broeckelman, dropped to 1-5.

"We struggled knowing when to shoot the ball, and when to pass, and we were kind of hesitant in it, so it's kind of been a focus to keep moving without the ball and constantly just looking for the shot and the open person," Beagley said. "I think tonight it clicked a lot better and it worked, because we have been working on it in practice a lot."

Beagley, recruited by multiple Kansas junior colleges, averages 19 points per contest. A 6-footer who primarily plays on the perimeter, she finished with a team-high 15 points and three assists. Junior Janna Schulte collected 12 points.

"Most teams you are going to play against aren't going to have somebody with her athleticism that can match up with her on the perimeter, match up with her on the inside and have it be the same person," Cox said of Beagley.

Beagley started the second quarter with a mid-range jumper. Then, freshman Megan Boxberger hit a trey to put the lead to 20-13 with 6:30 remaining before intermission.

"Anybody on our team has an open shot, they are open to take it," Coach Schulte said.

Beagley followed with a basket where she worked the ball between two defenders and scored on the inside.

After a Beloit timeout, junior Alex Ptacek completed a fast break score for a 24-13 lead. With 4:54 left, Beagley found senior Savanna Huff for a basket.

"I am very pleased with the way she is passing the ball. I know she is passing the ball better this year than she ever has," Coach Schulte said.

Ptacek hit a shot and Boxberger sunk another trey before Russell missed with 2:29 left in the quarter.

"We got our players moving and we knocked down some shots, which is great," Coach Schulte said.

In the boys' contest, Russell lost 64-16 to Beloit, ranked No. 3 in Class 3A. Austin Budke collected a game-high 29 points, all in the first three quarters. Russell dropped to 0-7, while Beloit improved to 5-1.