LAGRANGE — The Keystone girls athletic teams are used
From winning a state championship in softball in 2006 and going to regionals in volleyball and basketball, the Wildcat girls programs work hard to keep that great success going every year.
“Winning spreads,” Keystone head coach Scott Terry said. “We’ve had some successful programs throughout the years here. Softball has taken the lead with that. Going back many years, and back in the early 2000s, you had volleyball and basketball going to regionals. It’s a hump that’s hard for a lot of schools to get over, but Keystone has found a way to do that.”
With all the sports success at the Division II level, Terry also knows it comes with a price.
“There’s that expectation with our girls, regardless what sport that they play,” Terry said. “There’s a lot of tradition and a lot of responsibility to work hard and try and be successful. We’re very blessed to have that situation, to have a winning tradition and it’s not something that’s easy to come by.”
This season, Keystone girls basketball has clinched its fifth straight Patriot Athletic Conference title. The Wildcats are a win away from finishing its PAC season undefeated at 13-0 for the third time in five years. They’ve only lost four conference games during their five-year run.
“We talk about tradition and no one wants to let that tradition down,” Terry said. “There’s nothing like cutting down the nets. It’s a great feeling. It’s something that we focus on. We always say our first objective is to win conference and then we’ll start setting some tournament goals after that. We love to see the banners going up and we love to see the nets coming down. The girls have really done a nice job over the years. I’ve been blessed to have a great bunch of kids.”
Senior captain Karli Sturgill has been a part of the last four PAC titles and credited the community for their support.
“No matter what sport it is, they’re always right behind us,” Sturgill said. “I think that since our school is so centered around excellence and having success, no matter what sport it is, our town backs us up and all the people in the school are all about in helping us with our success.”
Keystone has been led by the play of its starting five, which includes Sturgill and four juniors (Emily Nagy, Mackenzie Conrad, Alisha Silva and Danielle Wilmoth). Nagy leads the team at 13 points and four rebounds per game, while Conrad scores nine and grabs nearly six rebounds per game. Silva averages seven points and dishes nearly three assists per game, while Wilmoth (5.3), Emily Kolar, a junior, (5.1 ppg), Jamie Senk, a senior, (4.5 ppg) and Sturgill (4 ppg) round out the balanced scoring attack. Senior Molly Cornish (2.5 ppg) and junior Mallory Nagy (3.3 ppg) have come off the bench and have also contributed to the team’s success. “One of the things that has really stood out with this basketball team is they’re very unselfish,” Terry said. “They love sharing the basketball. We have a ton of assists every game. It really is a fun game to watch when that happens. This is a resilient bunch.”
Last Monday, Keystone hit its first bump in the road since an opening night loss to Elyria Catholic. The Wildcats had a 15-game winning streak snapped in a non-conference road loss to Walsh Jesuit. Despite Walsh Jesuit’s losing record, it plays one of the toughest schedules every year.
“Their record is a little deceiving,” Terry said. “They play a very, very tough schedule. Here’s a team that’s going into the state tournament with a losing record (6-11) that has a real good shot of making it to the regionals. We got off to a little bit of a slow start. It was hard to overcome, but it certainly wasn’t a lack of effort. I think our girls probably learned more in that basketball game than the 15 games we won prior to that. I’m looking forward to these girls bouncing back. I think we’ll be prepared come tournament time.”
The loss was sort of a wake-up call for a lot of the players, including Conrad.
“That loss really got us,” Conrad said. “It really opened our eyes to how we’re going to need to play in those games. In these next few games, we know we’re going to have to go out and play as hard as we can. Come postseason time, we’re going to have to play with even more intensity than we’ve had before.
“Defense leads to our transition game. We ran a lot against teams (during winning streak) that we were playing. We play a real fast game, getting up the court and moving the ball really well.”
Overall, Keystone is 17-2 and has outscored its opponents by 379 points and has won games by an average of 21 points per game. The Wildcats will have a first-round bye in their D-II Elyria District. On Feb. 26, the Wildcats will face the winner of Fairview-Clearview (Feb. 21).
“We love winning,” Sturgill said. “(Winning the PAC) five times in a row and I’ve been her for four of them, it’s been awesome. It’s kind of like we have to do it. We’re not settling for anything less.”