Menker Gets Loose, Bulldogs Get Leashed

St. Marys' Elena Menker attempts a 3-pointer during the first half of Thursday's Western Buckeye League girls basketball game against Elida.
Sports Editor

While the defense stymied its opponent, the offense got jump started thanks to a sophomore scoring a career-high.

St. Marys leashed the Bulldogs with six second-half points, while Elena Menker was uncollared with 15 points — 12 points in the second half — as the Roughriders earned their 11th straight victory and sits one win away from the most in a season in nearly a decade with a 48-28 Western Buckeye League win on Thursday.

Menker’s previous career high was 10 points in two games last year, but has not scored more than nine this season.

But the Roughrider netted eight of her 15 points in the third quarter and a pair of 3-pointers and 12 points in the second half. The sophomore has been heating up as late too.

Aside from Thursday’s 15 points, she tallied nine points in Saturday’s win against Lima Central Catholic — adding another threat to a team that has been rolling since late December.

“We have been trying to get her involved with our game plan for two years and she is finally taking shots and taking the ball to the basket,” Roughriders coach Jon Burke said. “And that was a big part of it, having the confidence to go up and know that she is our best shooter.

“By percentage-wise, she is the best shooter in the area and definitely in the league so if we can get her more touches and more shots, that is going to be good for our team. I think Laney would pass up a lot of shots earlier in the year and now she is pulling the trigger.”

On Thursday, the sophomore used everything in her arsenal. She connected on three 3-pointers, drove in the lane for the first field goal in the fourth quarter and scored on a reserve layup after missing and rebounding her own shot.

She looked as smooth as butter and the Bulldogs (9-9, 3-4 WBL) couldn’t dish her up.

“That was awesome,” Burke said of Menker’s reserve layup. “She is smooth and she can finish around the hoop really well, especially for her size, she has some good post moves too.”

While Menker did her thing, so too did the Riders (14-4, 4-3) defense.

Trailing 22-18 at the half — and trailing at half of the first time since Dec. 19 — the Roughriders greeted the Bulldogs in the second half by scoring the game’s first 17 points and outscoring them 22-3 in the third quarter. The Riders limited Elida to just six points in the second half off 2-of-22 shooting from the floor.

“I reminded them how good our defense is when teams have to face our shell defense so if we can get them to come against our half-court defense, it slows them coming up the court,” Burke said “They are well-disciplined and they give the ball back to 10 [Addisyn Freeman] and she would walk the ball up the floor. Against one-on-one pressure, it wasn’t enough.

“So we felt that we needed to give Lauren and Kendall a little bit of help with getting pressure with our full-court press and I thought we did a nice job of that. We knew we needed to clean up the boards, I thought we boxed out a lot better and we got out on transition a lot better, but more importantly than anything, we slowed the game down, we got the ball back in the post and got Carly involved and Laney had a breakout game for us.”

A three-ball by Carly Caywood gave the Riders a 9-7 lead at the end of the first quarter and Menker’s 3-pointer pushed that lead to 12-7 in the opening seconds of the second stanza. But the Bulldogs began to warm up with a pair of free throws by Aubrey Vincent and a bucket and foul by the senior guard to tie the game at 12-12 with 5:21 left in the first half. Noelle Ruane drove in the lane and connected on two free throws after being fouled seven seconds later, but St. Marys did not score a point the next 3:07 as Elida went on a 10-0 run to lead 22-14 with 2:27 left. The Bulldogs scored three points off Roughriders’ turnovers and took advantage of St. Marys’ missed shots by racing down the floor for transitions buckets.

However, the Riders were able to close the eight-point gap in half by intermission.