Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Teutopolis varsity head coach Laurie Thompson brought her team to watch three of her former players in sophomores Lexie Niebrugge and Olivia Niemerg and freshman Isabella Hardiek.
She couldn’t have been smiling more if she tried.
Her players helped Lake Land women’s basketball team defeat Olney Central College, 73-56, on Friday evening.
“It was pretty cool because at one point all three were out there,” Thompson said reminiscing about the three of them playing for her at the same time. “To see them out there and see how they’ve developed into that college player – all three of them looked great. I’m a proud mama.”
The electric Niebrugge, capable of dropping 30 points a night, was held to just five points, Niemerg followed with four, and Hardiek crashed the boards denying OCC second chance opportunities earning post-game praise for her defense from Lakers head coach Dave Johnson after the game.
“They got out there and played hard and looked like they were having fun,” she said.
Lake Land improve to 5-0 and OCC drops to 1-3.
Thompson, whose own team stands at 2-0 on the season, said she looked at the Wooden Shoes’ schedule and saw Friday night’s matchup was the only one the squad was able to attend.
“We looked and saw there was only one game we could go,” she said. “This doesn’t happen very often where they all get out there to play. You have kids from Neoga (playing) up there. It’s just a cool atmosphere.”
While OCC was preoccupied with defending Niebrugge and Hardiek, freshman Katelyn Littleton erupted for 10 first-half points providing the Lakers a lift going into the halftime break with a 44-28 lead.
The Lakers opened the second half forcing a turnover that led to a Niemerg bucket. Niemerg got back on defense and swatted an OCC shot out of bounds. The Blue Knights went on a 6-2 run before Niebrugge sank a 3-pointer giving the Lakers a 53-37 lead. The lead would be too much for OCC to come back from.
Johnson praised his freshmen Hardiek and Littleton, who finished with a game-high 19 points.
“I was really pleased with our freshmen tonight,” he said. “Izzy Hardiek was all over the boards.”
Much like at Teutopolis, the trio as well as their current teammates will face a tough stretch of opponents in December.
“We have Morton at No. 2 (nationally), Muskegon in the top 20, and then, eventually, back-to-back games against No. 11 and No. 3 in the country,” Johnson said. “We’re going find out what we’re worth in December.”
The team will rely on Niebrugge, Niemerg, as well as Hardiek to lead them – as Teutopolis did.
“Those three kids are not only hard working, but they have great basketball knowledge,” Johnson said. “They understand how to win. They know what it takes to win and how hard you have to play to win. That’s invaluable.”
Niemerg said the team has to get more out of practice and not go through the motions for them to have success in December.
“I think it comes down to practice,” she said. “We need to go harder in practice to get more out of practice and be focused. I think we just get through practice just to get through it.”
In the meantime, there were new memories made after the game as the players met with their former coaches and teammates for pictures and hugs.
“It was awesome for her to see her past players play in college,” Niebrugge said. “There were three of us from that the team. It was really cool that she got to see that.”
And while she may not admit it, Thompson laid the groundwork for their collegiate success.
“I’m very proud of those girls,” she said. “They worked very hard for me and they’re working hard for Coach Johnson. We had a lot of success and it’s nice to see them go to the next level and have that same success.”
OLNEY CENTRAL COLLEGE
Weiler 2 0-0 5, Gipson 3 1-2 7, Peterson 3 0-0 7, Cannon 3 1-2 8, Shorter 5 0-2 13, Pearman 2 0-0 5, Parker 2 0-0 5, Hall 4 0-0 8.
Totals: 23 2-6 56. 3-pointers: Weiler 1, Peterson 1, Cannon 1, Shorter 3, Pearman 1, Parker 1.
LAKE LAND COLLEGE
Frederick 1 1-2 4, Littleton 7 2-3 19, Niemerg 2 0-0 4, Barry 2 2-2 7, Custis 3 2-2 9, Watson 5 0-0 13, Niebrugge 2 0-0 5, Russo 1 2-2 4, Orris 1 0-0 3, Wade 1 2-2 4, Haws 0 1-4 1.
Totals: 25 12-17 73. 3-pointers: Frederick 1, Littleton 3, Barry 1, Custis 1, Watson 3, Niebrugge 1, Orris 1.