Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2012, 8:33 pm

Freshman's strong debut a bright spot in Moline loss

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By Marc Nesseler,

PEORIA — It was just a matter of time. Moline girls' basketball coach Steve Ford decided that the Peoria Manual Tournament was the right time.

Welcome to the Moline varsity, 6-foot-2 freshman Lexie Gerard. Those days of averaging double-doubles at the sophomore level effectively ended with a stellar varsity debut Thursday afternoon.

First checking in midway through the second quarter of a 40-35 loss to Bartonville Limestone, Gerard finished just a basket and two rebounds shy of a varsity double-double, getting eight points and eight rebounds.

"She gives us quite an offensive presence inside, and on defense she adjusts shots and rebounds," said Ford, whose Maroons bounced back to defeat Danville 37-26 a couple of hours later. "We knew we were going to be doing this, calling her up, at some point, and we figured that this was the ideal time to do this."

Lexie is the younger sister of Maroons top-scorer Morgan Gerard, a 5-foot-8 senior who chipped in 10 points in the loss. She played some with the varsity players over the summer, giving the Moline coaches an indication that her stay on the sophomore level wouldn't be long.

As for when Lexie might move into the starting lineup, Ford says the coaching staff "hasn't thought that far ahead. But she is a good presence in there, and she's got good hands."

The addition of Lexie Gerard wasn't enough for the Maroons to pull out their Manual Tourney opener. The Maroons, now 6-12, were plagued by 28 turnovers, more than double their number of field goals made.

They stayed in the game, though, in part because Limestone had 24 turnovers of its own. Emily Knight, who had a season-high eight points aided by back-to-back third-quarter 3s, topped the Maroons with five steals.

The toughest stretch for Moline came during the latter stages of the third quarter and into the fourth. The Maroons went from up 27-22 to down 32-27.

Still, Moline was within a point at 36-35 after Knight hit two free throws with a minute left. However, Limestone (6-5) closed it out with steals and baskets by Reilly and Bailee Dunne.

Reilly Dunne topped the Rockets with 14 points, but stealing the show was 6-foot senior Morgan Schwindenhammer. Schwindenhammer just missed a rare triple-double with 11 points, nine rebounds and nine steals.

Maroons rest scorers in win: Ford sat out his top two scorers, Morgan Gerard and Jordan de los Reyes, and played No. 3 scorer Becky Lankford sparingly in the win over Danville, the tourney's No. 5 seed that is now 9-3.

"We were just checking out different opportunities for kids," the coach said of giving a first varsity start to Ashley Lewis and opening with a pair of sophomores, Hailey Cook and Marley Patrick.

"It was our second game of the day, and in just a matter of hours, so we brought in some of those who didn't play as much. Maybe they had a little more in their tank. We tried to bring in a group that gave us some fresh energy."

It worked. All five starters scored, with point guard Kristina Bosickovic tallying seven points and six rebounds. Lexie Gerard, second off the bench, led the way with eight points and six boards, and first reserve Hannah Ford had six points and five boards.

Moline's packed zone defense held Danville to just 13 first-half shots and only six inside the arc.

Moline will face Springfield Southeast at 1 p.m. today.