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Raiders end year with rout of Rockets

Dec. 30—MIDDLETOWN — Making the jump from middle school basketball where every player is usually the same age to high school where a freshman may be battling the more mature and experienced seniors can be tough for some kids.

For Shenandoah's Grace Lee, that transition has been a smooth one as a result of a lifetime of playing AAU basketball as well as inheriting some toughness from her older brother, two-time state wrestling champion Silas Allred.

Saturday, Lee poured in a career-high 24 points and led a dominant Raiders rebounding effort as Shenandoah wrapped up 2023 with a 63-21 win over Union (Modoc).

Shenandoah squared its record at 7-7 overall and 3-2 in the Mid-Eastern Conference with the win while the Rockets fell to 5-7 overall and remain winless in the MEC in five outings.

Lee has averaged about 10 points and five rebounds this season. A compliment to the young — but experienced — backcourt of Lilliana Lynch, Rory McKnight and sophomore Gabbi Patrick, the 5-foot-9 Lee's performance on the interior largely dictates the success of the Raiders as a team.

"She's an integral part of what makes us go," Shenandoah coach Hayley Wilson said. "We need her to be in the game and going to help us go."

"It wasn't a super big transition because I play AAU ball," Lee said. "I gathered a lot that helped me coming in to high school ball. My teammates have helped me through it all, step by step, and my coach has helped me a lot."

Saturday, she also led all players with seven rebounds as Shenandoah dominated the glass 34-17. All of Lee's rebounds were on the offensive end as the Raiders cashed in with second-chance opportunities.

"We instituted a rule that if you shoot, you have to at least hit backboard or rim," Wilson said. "We want to make sure that if you hit backboard or rim that Gracie — really anyone — is getting there to clean it up. They know when the shot goes up it's going to hit something, and they're responsible for rebounding."

It was actually those Raiders guards who set the tone early before Lee took over grounding the Rockets.

McKnight and Patrick opened the game with 3-point baskets before each followed with 2-point scores for an early 10-2 lead. Kimberlee Farmer added a basket and a free throw for a 13-4 lead before Lee scored six straight points to help lift the Raiders to a 23-6 lead after the first quarter.

Patrick finished with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and eight steals as Shenandoah forced 31 Union turnovers and committed just 14 miscues.

"Defensively, she's really transformed this year," Wilson said. "Offensively, she helped us a ton last year, but she's getting so much (unnoticed) things this year ... she's our leading rebounder, she leads us in assists and a lot of time she leads us in steals. She is doing a lot of that, and a lot of people don't see that."

After Haley Hughes opened the second quarter with a Raiders basket, Lee scored consecutive rebound baskets as part of an eight-point second quarter to help Shenandoah to a 39-8 halftime advantage.

"I want to get points on the board or getting assists to my teammates," Lee said. "Getting up there and getting the (offensive rebounds) can obviously help the team."

A rebound basket by Hughes to open the third period was followed by a Patrick baseline jumper and a Lee layup — on an assist from Patrick — for a 45-10 lead, triggering the running clock mercy rule for the Raiders.

Lee capped her day with a score in the lane off a pass from Farmer in the third quarter and did not score in the final period.

The Raiders will open the Henry County tournament Friday with their semifinal matchup at Knightstown against the Panthers. Shenandoah beat Knightstown 35-23 in early November.

"We're excited. One of our main goals this year was to win county," Wilson said. "We understand there are big roadblocks to doing that, but we're wanting to do that."

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.