HERRIN — Although her height is only measured at 5-feet, 6 inches, Herrin freshman point guard Jersey Summers stood tall Saturday afternoon in leading the Tigers to their first win of the season, a hard-fought 54-48 decision over visiting Marion.
Summers knocked down a trifecta of 3-points and was 4-of-4 from the free-throw line to finish with 15 points. What was even more impressive was that she came back into the game and played effectively after sustaining an ankle injury. Her speed and lateral movement impacted, Summers still managed to drain one from long range and run the offense.
"Jersey fought through the pain," said Tigers head coach Chris Roberts. "She hit some big shots today, including four clutch free throws. I was very proud of her effort."
Junior forward Presli Karnes enjoyed a big day at the office, as well, pouring in a season-high 20 points on seven field goals and six free tosses in as many attempts.
"Presli has gotten more aggressive in her play and the results are obvious," Roberts said.
Herrin trailed 9-6 after one period, but erupted for a 17-point second period to march into the intermission with a 23-13 lead. The Wildcats closed the gap ever so slightly in the third period, outscoring the Tigers 16-13, leaving the score 36-29 in the home team's favor entering the final stanza.
Marion also outscored Herrin over the final eight minutes by a single point (19-18). It wasn't enough to erase the deficit.
"We had an opportunity to win the game at the end," said first-year Wildcats head coach Casey Rose. "The girls fought hard and that's all I could ask."
Rose, having recently served a virus-related quarantine, said his ballclub had practiced sparingly and hadn't played a single game before Saturday, while the Tigers had already played three games.
"Plus, our girls have a new coaching staff and new system to learn," Rose said. "Based on how things went today, we have some things to clean up. We have to cut back on our fouls and protect the basketball, but we got better today. We will grow from this loss."
Rose said he was especially pleased with the play of his sophomore guard, Jerzy Bittle, who finished with a team-high 18 points. Junior forward Lily Garrett followed with 11 points, including three triples, and junior guard Gracie Connor also reached double digits with 10. She had a pair of 3-pointers.
Marion is scheduled to play at Carbondale Thursday and at Vienna Saturday. Herrin is scheduled to play at Massac County Monday, host West Frankfort on Thursday, which will be celebrated as "Senior Night" and then travel to Carbondale Saturday.
Roberts said "it felt really good to get a win" after struggling to put points on the board in previous losses to Anna-Jonesboro, Carterville and Benton.
"We finally started to put the ball in the hole a little today," he said. "I thought everyone contributed to our win. We had good leadership from our senior starters Layla Wade and Kelby Weber, as well as Ainslie Farmer, who came off the bench and played well defensively. And our juniors... Megyn Blankenship, Taylor Cornelius and Regan Deaton...stepped up, too."