Senior-heavy AIE squad too much for Lady Bulldogs

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By Laura Clark

LOUISVILLE -- The Lady Cougars are the kind of team coach Tres bien Gambino said she hopes her Lady Bulldogs will be in a few years.

That senior-heavy squad from the Academy of Individual Excellence in Louisville dealt Cornerstone a 55-26 loss Friday night. Six seniors combined for 37 of those points.

“They’ve obviously played together for years,” Gambino said. “You start to move as one, and I think that’s something we lack.”

But Gambino believes her young team will get there. The Lady Bulldogs have one senior, one junior, four sophomores and two fifth-graders. Just four had basketball experience before this season, and they’ve all been contributors.

“I hope all these girls stick with it because they have come a long way,” Gambino said.

The Lady Cougars held a steady lead through the first half, with a stifling full-court press forcing turnovers. AIE beat the Lady Bulldogs down the court too many times, earning a 26-12 halftime lead.

“They know that in basketball it’s all about running; it’s all about getting back,” Gambino said. “We’re not the fastest team in the league, but we’re hustling.”

Cornerstone suffered a key personnel loss when fifth-grade point guard Myah Pace went out with an injury. Pace was tripped up driving in the paint and bruised her leg.

The Lady Bulldogs adjusted, but the Lady Cougars' relentless defense held them to one free throw in the third quarter, while scoring 19 points.

Cornerstone’s lone senior Christian Raney stepped up, making a big block to end the third quarter. She frequently brought the ball upcourt and made solid plays at both ends, working for the rebounds and scoring all nine of her points in the fourth quarter.

“She had to be the leader on the court, and I feel like she did a good job,” Gambino said.

Sophomore Tara Watkins was the leading scorer for the Lady Bulldogs with 13 points. Lady Cougar Sara Berge scored a game-high 14.

The Lady Bulldogs are 5-7 with just two games remaining. As with all Cornerstone sports teams, the Lady Bulldogs are ineligible to play in the season-ending tournament.

During the transition to a new athletic director, several mandatory KCAA meetings were missed that led to the ineligibility.

“Keeping the vision alive has been tough this year,” Gambino said. “They’re trying their hardest. I’m really proud of my team this year.”