The Union girls basketball team has enjoyed a decent deal of success this season, entering their holiday break at an even 4-4 and looking to return to the hardwood with back-to-back games on January 4 and 5.
Prior to the holiday break, the girls won two of three games to get themselves in better position to challenge upon their return.
Sam Barz scored 20 in the ladies' 51-16 win over Wapsie Valley on December 11, and followed that up with a 16-point performance against Hudson on the road December 14.
The girls played perhaps their best game of the season on December 18, when they beat Jesup 62-13. The Knights allowed just one point in the first quarter, six in the second, one in the third and five in the fourth to hold Jesup to a season low in points scored.
Head Coach Robert Driscol was extremely pleased with the way his team handled their business against a very capable team.
"With Jesup coming in with a 5-2 record and their leading scorer averaging 19 points a game, we knew they were doing some good things and we would have to play well," Driscol said. "I thought we played a solid game at both ends of the court."
Driscol saw the play of Emily Phillips and Tessa Reiter as essential to the Knights' victory and the records they set in the process.
"Emily and Tessa did a great job of helping our diamond defense to limit Jesup's leading scorer to seven," Driscol said. "Holding Jesup to 13 points is a school record for the fewest points allowed in a game."
Union's leading scorer, Sam Barz, had 17 points and also led the team with eight rebounds, and Payton Hilton chipped in with 16 points and five boards.
"Payton had an exceptional offensive game going 8-for-10," Driscol said. "Sam continues to be a force on the boards as she just missed another double-double."
One of the reasons for Union's improved play, according to Driscol, has been the elimination of turnovers that hurt the team's chances in some of their winnable games earlier in the season.
"We had been turning the ball over too much this year, but had only eight turnovers tonight which will help keep us in a lot of games," Driscol said. "Breann Bader did a good job of distributing the ball and finished with a season-high six assists."
Bader will be a key to the Knight's chances moving forward. She has been the team's second leading scorer, averaging 9.6 points per game, and leads the team in shooting from beyond the arc, hitting 15 threes this season.
Bader also has a team-high 14 assists and 13 steals, and if she can find a way to continue to set up open looks for her teammates without turning the ball over, she will make a lot of noise in the second half of the season.
Sam Barz is averaging almost a double-double on the season with 14.6 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game. Payton Hilton has also been important in using her size advantage to record 7.6 rebounds per game to go along with her 9.1 points per game.
If the girls are going to make a run in the second half of the season, they'll need to carry some momentum over from before the break. On Friday, the ladies host Denver, losers of five straight contests.
On Saturday, the girls will be participating in the Ninth Annual Mercy Sports Care Rivalry Saturday at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
The event, which hosts 12 of the state's best girls basketball programs, will pit Union against Center Point-Urbana at 6:15 p.m.
The Knights will be wearing their road uniforms, as CP-U has been designated as the home team. Mediacom will be televising the game on a tape-delayed basis to some areas, so check your local listings.