If actions speak louder than words, Sissel Pierce’s performance Thursday afternoon in the girls State B basketball tournament spoke volumes about Wishkaw Valley’s championship hopes.
The soft-spoken center from Aberdeen dominated both ends of the court as the Loggerettes downed St. JohnEndicott 56-43 and established themselves as a major contender for the state title.
Pierce scored 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, blocked eight shots and wreaked havoc on an Eagles team projected by some to win this year’s tournament title.
“This team is capable of getting really, really focused when they have to and they were focused for this,” Wishkaw Valley coach Rick McDougall said. “We played St. John in the last game of state last year and they beat us by two points (55-53). I think these kids really wanted to play St. John.”
The Loggerettes got their wish, and the 6-foot-5 Pierce, a senior, turned in a performance McDougall found worthy of high praise.
“I thought Pierce played one of the smarter games she’s played in a long time,” he said. “When she got her third foul she smartened right up - she didn’t go out and foul anybody or leave her feet too much, but she was still a force for us especially at the offensive end.”
St. John-Endicott coach Lorin Carlon agreed.
“She was tough,” Carlon said of Pierce. “We like to seal up in the middle a little more, but we knew we couldn’t do that today.”
Pierce has altered many game plans during her career and McDougall said her impact goes beyond statistics.
“How many shots did she block tonight?” McDougall said, knowing she had the aforementioned eight. “They (St. John-Endicott) eventually quit going in deep. They were frustrated. I’ve played against her in practice, my assistant’s played against her in practice - you think you’ve shot a good shot and the next thing you know it’s coming back in your face.”
McDougall said even when Pierce began to draw extra attention her team benefitted.
“We’re six or seven kids deep and we have really good balance,” he said. “We’re not a team where you can concentrate on one ballplayer. If you concentrate on Pierce, (Melissa) Bowen, (Crystal) Teague or (Mindy) McElliot will rip you apart.”
Wishkaw Valley advances to a semifinal game with Davenport today at 6:30 p.m. Davenport was a 54-47 winner over Rainier as Jennifer Stinson scored 23 points, 10 in the second quarter.