WALWORTH – On the first day of December, a battle of titans took place, as the Big Foot girls basketball team headed to Jefferson to take on the Eagles. Those two teams would go on to be the top two teams in the Rock Valley Conference, but in that early season matchup, they weren’t very close.
Jefferson won 53-40, jumping out to an early lead and draining the clock as a young Chiefs squad was unable to mount a comeback.
Head coach Rick Schoenbeck felt that the difference in experience was a major factor in the first match-up.
“We weren’t deep enough early on; I’ve got some young girls,” Schoenbeck said. “We went in there not quite prepared for what they gave us. They hit some shots, they got the lead and stalled it out on us.”
On Jan. 25, the Eagles (13-1) made the trip to Walworth, and this time, Big Foot (11-5) was here to play, handing the Eagles their first loss of the season 58-52.
The difference between the two games was that this time, the Chiefs were ready for an onslaught.
“We do a ton of film, and we knew what every one of those girls like to do, and we took it away. Didn’t always do it, don’t get me wrong, but we frustrated them, and that’s how we won that game,” Schoenbeck said.
The early portion of the game was a slugfest, with both teams playing an evenly matched physical game, as Jefferson took a 9-8 lead. However, the physical nature of the game took its toll on the Chiefs when sophomore Reagan Courier, one of the team’s biggest offensive threats, picked up two early fouls and had to spend much of the first half on the bench.
In her absence, though, the team played well, building up a 21-16 lead, only for the Eagles to roar back to tie it at 21 with about five minutes remaining in the first half.
From that point on, the Chiefs hit a switch, going on a 15-3 run to head into halftime with a 36-24 advantage.
A large part of Big Foot’s stellar first-half play was courtesy of the unselfish play of senior Courtney Schoenbeck. Rick Schoenbeck felt that Courtney posed a threat to Jefferson because her height gave her a mismatch with her defenders, and as such had her playing down low rather than her usual mid-range game.
“That’s not normally Courtney’s game, but when you’ve got the match-up, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” Schoenbeck said.
As a result of the mismatch, Courtney had 15 points at halftime, which would have tied her for the second leading scorer for both teams in the entire game.
When play resumed, the Chiefs picked up where they left off, bringing their lead to its largest of the game at 43-28 with 13 minutes remaining on the clock.
At that point, Big Foot’s goal became controlling the pace of the game and burning time. They were particularly effective at it between the 11-minute mark and the 8-minute mark, burning nearly three full minutes on one possession.
While they were able to control the clock, the Chiefs weren’t quite able to capitalize offensively, which is dangerous against a team as talented as Jefferson. The Eagles mounted a comeback, bringing a lead that was once 15 down to only five, as Big Foot led 51-46 with four minutes remaining.
A three-pointer and a few free throws later, and Big Foot’s lead was a single point, 51-50, with two and a half minutes left.
Down the final stretch, though, the Chiefs were able to hit their free throws, as Jefferson intentionally fouled, and the Eagles weren’t able to convert on their end, giving Big Foot enough steam to close the game with a 7-2 run to seal the victory.
Courtney Schoenbeck led all scorers with 25 points, while Jefferson senior Parker Fetherson led her team with 20. Despite missing large chunks of both halves in foul trouble, Courier racked up 15 points for second place on the Chiefs.
It was a morale boost for the Chiefs to become the first blemish on their conference rival’s record, but it wasn’t quite enough to get them into the driver’s seat in the RVC title race.
Big Foot’s conference record sits at 10-2, while the Eagles are 11-1, so the Chiefs will need to rely on their fellow conference members to take a couple more cracks at the current top dog.
“What we say is ‘we’ve got to take care of business, and we need help,’” Schoenbeck said.