LANSING | While Chicago Agricultural Science possesses the Cyclones nickname, it was T.F. South senior guard Ninah Bertrand who initiated a powerful storm on Friday night.
Bertrand's 41 points and seven rebounds provided the Rebels with a much-needed spark after a sluggish first quarter and allowed them to cruise to a 68-42 victory.
Bertrand's offensive performance equaled the program's single-game scoring record, which was previously set by Shauniese Harvin during the 1999-2000 season. It was a mark Bertrand said she was unaware of until late in the contest.
"My coaches started bringing it up then," she said. "Once I found out (how close I was), I made it a goal (to pass the record)."
Even though Bertrand didn't surpass the record, her effort on both ends of the court against the Cyclones could not have been more important. Both teams had difficulty scoring in the game's early stages, but the tide turned in the Rebels' favor in the second quarter.
T.F. South (11-2) outscored Ag Science 22-2 to finish the half, as the latter went scoreless in the second period until just 37 seconds remained. Bertrand scored 16 points on 8-of-11 shooting during the Rebels' run, and the hosts augmented her offensive production with a strong defense that forced 18 first-half turnovers.
South coach Steve Breshock attributed his team's slow start to the gap between games due to the school's holiday break.
"This is the first time we've touched a basketball in a week," he said. "So it took us a quarter to get our rhythm back and trap them.
"We always want to play to a standard, not to a particular opponent."
Bertrand agreed with her coach, adding that the Rebels need to be prepared to play hard against opponents of any caliber.
"The momentum from today gives us confidence to compete at a high level every game," she said. "We have to come ready, physically and mentally, and not start out slowly."
Junior guard Kameron Dickens, who finished with eight points and a team-high eight rebounds, said that South's work on the glass contributed greatly to its second-quarter surge.
"If you don't have that, you'll never get the ball," she said. "You have to box out (as best you can) and take the ball from them."
Although Ag Science and South played pretty evenly in the second half, the Cyclones never fully recovered, especially after an injury to senior Latrece Roberts. Cyclones coach Shawn Finnin said that occurrence greatly impacted his team's ability to make any kind of a comeback after the Rebels constructed a 22-point halftime edge.
"We have a young team, so once seniors get hurt, it hurts us a little," he said.
Finnin also credited Bertrand.
"She's a very good player," he said. "If we'd done a better job of containing her, we might've won."