Howell Central girls cagers clinch share of GAC South Championship
Success has been a welcome companion for the Francis Howell Central girls basketball team this winter.
The Spartans recently finished their regular season and began preparation for the Class 4 district playoffs, which they did with great momentum, thanks to clinching a share of Gateway Athletic Conference South Championship a few weeks earlier.
It was a strong move forward for the Spartans as they bounced back from a 17-10 season last year that saw them tied for third with a 5-5 conference slate.
“I think it’s been a good year to show the rewards of their hard work,” Howell Central coach Hayley Leake said. “From outside looking in, statistically, we’ve improved a lot the last three seasons, and I think from a culture standpoint, we’ve just become a lot stronger as a program.”
Central recently captured a share of the conference crown by rolling through the conference schedule, thanks to a dazzling 8-2 mark.
A three-game winning streak in mid-February put the Spartans into the top spot in the conference as Howell Central claimed the title on Feb. 6 with a 49-40 win over Francis Howell at home.
“When we played Howell at home, I think at that point, there was no way we couldn’t at least share it,” Leake said.
During the season, senior point guard Yani Curry, sophomore guard Lauren Ebert and senior forward Hannah Currant did the heavy lifting. As the playoffs began, Curry averaged almost 10 points per game while Ebert and Currant scored 9.3 points and 8.4 points per game, respectively.
While those three have been the constants, there have been plenty of others to step up to lead the club when needed.
“I think that you can tell that there are multiple players that have been our leading as our high scorers and I think that’s what has made this team so difficult to play,” Leake said.
Francis Howell, Liberty girls swimmers shine in postseason meets
To say that the Gateway Athletic Conference South and Class 4 state meets were special times last month for the Francis Howell girls swim team is putting it lightly. Howell started its special postseason by winning the GAC South Conference meet just three weeks ago and the Vikings finished off their season with a top 10 finish at the state meet in at Rec-Plex in St. Peters in late February.
“Day one, the girls were pumped and excited and wanted to win a conference championship and they wanted to do well at state,” Francis Howell coach Anna Jovanovic said. “Just having the whole team focused on the same goals throughout the season and encouraging each other and attaining these goals is just awesome.”
Howell won the GAC South title by 162 points over defending champ Fort Zumwalt West and Timberland took third in the meet.
It was the Vikings’ second title in four years. “We’ve come so close the past two years but this year, we had the depth, so we knew we had a shot at winning,” Jovanovic said.
Vikings senior Alyssa Juris won a pair of individual titles as did juniors Emma Brabham and Madison Nguyen.
Howell also took first place in the 200 medley [1:53.04], 200-free relay [1:41.11] and the 400-free relay [3:37.17]
At the state meet on Feb. 19, Howell turned in a school-best sixth-place finish out of 74 teams.
The Vikings placed sixth in the 200-medley relay as Reagan Cathcart, Juris, Nguyen and Brabham finished the race in 1:49.08. Howell placed second in the 400-free relay as Madison Nguyen, Natalie Ngyuen, Cathcart and Brabham turned in a time of 3:33.45. Brabham was the Vikings’ top individual performer, with a sixth place in the 200 IM.
Only five swimmers competed for Howell, but the team made a big statement with their top 10 finish at state.
“The fact that we took five girls and we were able to get sixth-place overall is super impressive and just shows you how hard they worked and how bad they wanted it,” Jovanovic said.
Liberty also had a magical postseason achievement as the Eagles’ girls swim team won the GAC/North Central title recently over Fort Zumwalt South and Fort Zumwalt East.
Senior Sarah Staats won the 200 IM and sophomore Marjori Russo got the Eagles’ other individual championship with a first place finish in the 50 freestyle.
“I think the strength of our team is while I have Sarah and Marjorie that are stars or top swimmers, we have so many kids that swam their best times, rose to the occasion and did what they had to do to get it done,” Liberty coach Tracey Webb said.
In addition, Liberty also claimed its second straight conference championship.
“It was pretty exciting,” Webb said. “We were pretty fortunate that we have that depth with our team and our kids really just jelled well together and they are all supporting one another.”
Liberty also picked up a pair of wins in the relays, taking first in the 200 medley and the 200 free.
Staats was the lone Eagles swimmer to make it to the state meet and she had a very solid performance, finishing 32nd with a time of 2:15.3.
“Sarah has been a really great asset to the team,” Webb said. “She can swim anything and she’s an all-around good athlete.”
Other top winners in the meet included Fort Zumwalt East freshman Rachel Springer in the 200 freestyle, Fort Zumwalt East freshman Emma Gulovsen in the 500 free and Fort Zumwalt North junior Michaela Russ in the 100 breaststroke.
Francis Howell schools finish in top 10 in Class 4 tournament
It did not quite have the excitement of last year’s school-best third-place finish, but the Francis Howell wrestling team still finished the 2017 Class 4 tournament feeling very good about themselves.
The Vikings finished fifth in Columbia on Feb. 18 behind Staley, CBC and Park Hill.
“We had a good finish, we finished fifth and we would have liked to be in the trophy [round]. We wrestled well but a couple of teams ahead of us wrestled better and each had a couple of more guys that could score points,” said Francis Howell coach Kevin Stroh.
Howell finished the tournament with five medalists and one finalist who made an impact.
Three-time state medalist and junior Jack Flynn came up just short in the 195-pound title match, losing 1-0 to Zach Elam of Staley. “He lost to this kid 5-1 a couple of weeks ago and he closed the gap but just couldn’t get the takedown late,” Stroh said.
Other medalists for Howell included Dylan Komperda, who took third place at 182 pounds, Tyler Kreith at 126 pounds finished fourth, Antonio Jenkins Harris finished in fourth at 170 pounds and Tyler McGhee finished fifth place at 145 pounds. McGhee scored a major decision over Lafayette’s Anthony Harris.
Francis Howell Central turned in a solid performance as well finishing eighth overall.
The Spartans’ top finisher was Jackson Berck, who finished second as he lost to Chaminade’s Danny Conley in the 220-pound championship match. Other top finishers for the Spartans included Corey Wait, who came in third at 138 pounds, thanks to a decision over David Berryman of Staley, and Jonathan Floyd finished fifth in the 170-pound division.
Timberland got a second-place finish from standout Anthony Pisciotta at 113 pounds, a third-place finish from Cameron Spires at 126 and a fifth-place finish from Cody Brave at 285 pounds.
Jordan Williams picked up a third-place finish for Fort Zumwalt West at 285 pounds.
Holt finished in 12th place. The Indians had three medalists. Nathan Undertajlo finished in fifth place at 120 pounds, Jeff Farris took fifth at 138 pounds and Colton Hawks was fourth at 152 pounds.
“I think we did well for the youth that we have,” Holt coach Jason Moore said.
During the tournament, Fort Zumwalt South got its first individual champion since 1999 as Cameron Rudy knocked off Rolla’s Christian Barr 9-8 to win the 126-pound title.
NCAA Women’s Frozen Four to play at Family Arena
The NCAA Women’s Frozen Four hockey tournament will take place at Family Arena in St. Charles on March 17 and 19. The top four teams in women’s Division I ice hockey will compete for the national championship.
The two semifinal games of the tournament will be played on March 17 at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. The championship game is slated for March 19 at 2 p.m. Lindenwood University is hosting the tournament along with the St. Louis Sports Commission.