It's a game Hannah Nimrick remembers all too well.|
As a freshman on the Riverdale varsity girls' basketball roster three years ago, the Rams' all-time leading scorer played a key role in her team advancing to a Class 2A sectional-final showdown with Byron and its own freshman standout, Sophie Reecher.
Up by 13 points at halftime, Riverdale saw the Tigers launch an impressive second-half comeback to force overtime, where they finished the job with a 50-40 victory that denied the Rams their first sectional championship.
Now, Nimrick and Reecher and their respective teams will square off yet again, this time in tonight's 7:30 semifinal at the Somonauk Sectional. Riverdale takes its 25-2 record up against a Byron team that has a school-record 29 wins in 31 games.
"Me and (coach Mick) Kopriva talked about it when they put the brackets together and we saw we might have a chance at playing Byron,'' said Nimrick. "My first thought was that was 6-4 freshman (Reecher) that I had to guard. She was so intimidating that night. I'm just so excited that we get to go up against them again.
"We were up by 13 at half, and we felt we had it in the bag, but we just lost sight of the game. That was an emotional game. I really wish that group had made it a lot farther.''
Riding a 16-game winning streak that includes last Friday's 50-42 regional-title win over host Sterling Newman -- giving Riverdale its third such title in four years -- the Rams not only have Reecher to contend with, but a 6-foot-1 guard in sophomore standout Ellie Lehne.
"Hopefully the outcome is different this time,'' said Kopriva. "Byron's a good club, and we're going to have a little trouble with their height, so we hope to put some pressure on their guards. We've played good defense all year, so we just have to keep playing hard.''
The experience four-fifths of the Riverdale starting lineup gained during the volleyball season, when the Rams advanced to the 2A Final Four and placed third, could also prove valuable in a game of this magnitude.
"They're used to winning, and they want to win,'' said Kopriva. "They're used to playing in tight situations, so there's some carryover there.''
Nimrick thinks that if the Rams play to their capabilities, nothing should stand between them and the Sweet 16 -- not even the ghosts of sectionals past.
"If we're on, no one can beat us,'' she said. "We're all excited to play, and we're ready to go out and play our best.''
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