Alex Rohlfing’s illness didn’t stand a chance.
With a district championship at stake Friday at , Rohlfing, while battling the effects of a head cold, led the girls basketball team to a 45-33 win and District 7 title over reigning Class 4 champion St. Dominic.
“I’m actually a little sick right now,” said Rohlfing, a senior who scored a game-high 26 points. “But my coach (former Duchesne standout Monica Steinhoff) told me the best game she ever played in her life was when she was sick, almost puking. So I just had confidence to come out and do what I had to do.”
Steinhoff, the Pioneers’ first-year head coach, heard rumblings during shootarounds that Rohlfing didn’t seem like herself. But she knew better. She was confident her best player would answer the call come tip-off.
Steinhoff simply told Rohlfing, “Just take some Advil and let’s go.”
St. Dominic built a 20-15 halftime lead, but Rohlfing kept Duchesne close with 11 first-half points.
Brigitte Reilly and Abby Schroeder came alive offensively for Duchesne, combining for 14 points in the second half, and the Pioneers began the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run capped by a Reilly 3-pointer.
But it was Rohlfing’s scoring and leadership that tilted the scale in Duchesne’s favor. Just as important as her 15 second-half points was her composure against St. Dominic’s pressure defense, which the Crusaders relied on heavily as they fell behind on the scoreboard.
At one point late in the fourth quarter, when Duchesne could not secure possession of the basketball on four straight chances, Rohlfing alertly called timeout following an in-bounds pass. It was just the move one would expect a veteran player to make in such a situation.
“We were down by five at halftime so we had to all come together and work as a team,” Rohlfing said. “We got some steals, we stayed calm under their press and broke it and scored some points off that.
“It’s my senior year so I did not want this to be my last game.”
Schroeder secured 13 rebounds and clamped down defensively on St. Dominic senior Kelly Schnieders, who led the Crusaders with 13 points but was held scoreless in the fourth quarter.
“Abby Schroeder came through playing defense on the Schnieders girl like I’ve never seen her play,” Steinhoff said. “Just an awesome job.”
In all, Duchense outscored St. Dominic, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, 30-13 after halftime.
It was the second such upset win for the fourth-seeded Pioneers, who beat host St. Charles West in the first round before upending top-seeded St. Charles 46-37 on Tuesday for a berth in the championship game.
The Pioneers improved to 18-10 overall and advance to play Kirksville (22-3) in the Class 4 sectional round at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Moberly Area Community College.
St. Dominic, which will welcome Duchesne into a revamped Archdiocesan Athletic Association next year, ended its season 19-6 after going undefeated en route to its first state title in 2010-11.
Said St. Dominic coach Suzie Mennemeier: “It’s always tough for the seniors especially. They don’t get another chance whereas everyone else can work hard in the offseason and see what we can get next year. For those four who have been with me so long, it was tough. Kelly (Schnieders) has been with me all four years, so it was especially hard on her. She took the game on her shoulders. It just didn’t work out.”