Little Ten Girls Tournament: Katie Baker, Serena roll past Somonauk for tourney title

Huskers senior pours in 26, including 11 in key third-quarter burst

The Serena Huskers captured the championship of the 41st annual Little Ten Conference Tournament on their home floor on Friday night with a 56-23 victory over the Somonauk Bobcats.

SERENA – The Serena girls basketball team, despite being the top seed, didn’t have an opportunity to play in the Little Ten Conference Tournament a season ago after being put into COVID-19 quarantine days before the beginning of the event.

This year, again as the No. 1 seed, the Huskers and senior all-stater Katie Baker had the chance for a little redemption.

Baker hit a floating shot right before halftime to give her team a 10-point lead over No. 6-seeded Somonauk, which had upset No. 3 Indian Creek and No. 2 Newark to reach the title game.

The Huskers then used an 8-2 run to start the third quarter and finished the frame on an 11-0 burst to eventually run away with a 56-23 triumph over the Bobcats in the league’s 41st event.

It was Serena’s first tournament championship since 2018 and fifth overall.

Baker, who finished with a game-high 26 points, 11 in the pivotal third quarter, with four 3-pointers, six steals and three assists, said missing the tournament last season was one of the toughest things she’s had to deal with in her young life.

“I thought about missing out on the tournament last year a lot this week,” Baker said. “My focus tonight was winning that gold ball, and I know that was the team’s focus as well. I felt like we would have had a really good chance to win it last year, but we didn’t get that chance. It sucked to not have a chance. It sucked, and that’s all I can really say.

“The third quarter was huge for us, but yeah, the basket right before halftime really got me fired up, and I feel like we carried over that energy into the third. Coach [Jim] Jobst told us to come out in the third quarter hard, and we did that.

“We wanted this game bad, and we weren’t going walk off the floor without it.”

Along with Baker’s huge night, sophomore Paisley Twait had 11 points, four assists and four steals, Makayla McNally seven points and 10 rebounds, and Jenna Setchell (four assists) and Jaiden Mahler (four rebounds) four points each.

Serena (24-2) led 13-7 after the opening quarter and 23-13 at the intermission.

“We talked at halftime about trusting what we do,” Jobst said. “In the first half we were getting away from the stuff that works and making things more difficult on ourselves than they needed to be. Much of my talking point at halftime was how we needed to come out and own the third quarter.

“The girls came out and definitely did that, but I really feel Katie’s hoop right at the end of the half got us going.”

After Somonauk’s Haley McCoy opened the second half with a layup 24 seconds in, the Huskers exploded.

A free throw by Baker, a three-point play by Twait and a 3-pointer from the right wing by Baker made it 31-15 with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter. A layup by Josie Rader broke the streak, but a rebound basket by Reese Cole, a 17-foot jumper by Twait and seven straight points from Baker had the hosts on top 42-17 heading to the final quarter.

Maggie Roberts paced Somonauk (10-13) with nine points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots, while McCoy scored six points with four rebounds.

“Serena is a very good team, and we knew what to expect tonight, but I wondered how much gas was left in the tank after Thursday night,” said Somonauk coach Garland King, whose team came back from 13 points down at halftime to top Newark in the semifinals. “We got here with a lot of guts, determination and maturity, but you have to bring your ‘A’ game in situations like tonight, especially against a team like Serena has. You almost have to play a perfect game to beat them.

“We played hard all the way … we just came up short.”

At Serena

41st annual Little Ten Conference Tournament

Championship game

Serena 56, Somonauk 23

SOMONAUK (23) — Roberts 4-12 1-2 9, Curtis 1-5 0-0 3, Rader 1-1 0-1 2, McCoy 3-9 0-0 6, Pennington 0-3 1-2 1, Potter 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 10-31 2-5 23.

SERENA (56) — Baker 9-17 4-7 26. Cole 1-3 1-2 3, McNally 3-11 1-2 7, Setchell 2-6 0-0 4, Twait 5-14 1-1 11, J. Mahler 2-4 0-0 4, M. Mahler 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 8-14 56.

Somonauk (10-13) 7 6 4 6 — 23

Serena (24-2) 13 10 19 13 — 56

3-point goals — Somonauk 1-3 (Curtis 1-3); Serena 4-8 (Baker 4-5, Setchell 0-2, Twait 0-1). Rebounds — Somonauk 25 (Roberts 12); Serena 28 (McNally 10). Assists — Somonauk 4 (Roberts 3); Serena 13 (Setchell 4, Twait 4). Steals — Somonauk 2 (Curtis 1, Pennington 1); Serena 16 (Baker 6, Twait 4). Blocks — Somonauk 3 (Roberts 3); Serena 0. Turnovers — Somonauk 22, Serena 7. Total fouls (fouled out) — Somonauk 10 (Rader); Serena 12 (none).