Principia defeats Cardinal Ritter 43-40

ANDREW JANSEN / JOURNAL Elizabeth Gilman, Principia, in the Panthers 43-40 win over Cardinal Ritter.

Liz Gilman is generous, maybe too generous. The standout guard for the Principia girls’ basketball team was blessed with the ability to put the ball in the basket like few before her. She can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. She can knock down a jump shot. That’s why she’s averaging nearly 15 points per game.

But her first instinct is to set up her teammates, which is why she is averaging nearly four assists per game. More often than not, that’s a good thing. Especially when there are talented players around her like she has at Principia. Sometimes, though, the best thing the 5-foot-8 Gilman can do for her team is go put up some points. It’s something she and her coach, Shad Nichols, have been working on. “She’s so unselfish and so agreeable,” Nichols says. “She wants to set her teammates up. It’s been a progression to get her to be more aggressive.”

This season she has been more willing to get into attack-mode and the results have been striking. As of Ladue News press time the Panthers were 13-3 with their only losses coming at the hands of Incarnate Word (twice) and Kirkwood. They did have key Metro League games this week against MICDS and Westminster last week. Those games will give Principia an idea of where they stand as the middle of February and the postseason inch ever closer. “I enjoy playing really good teams. I think that’s the test of how good we are and how far we’ve come,” Gilman, 17, says.

The Panthers, as a whole, have made incredible strides the last three seasons. Two years ago, when the seniors were sophomores, they went 15-7 and were beaten in the first round of district play. Last year, they won districts and made it to the Class 2 quarterfinal round before being beaten. This year, ranked No. 2 in Class 2, the Panthers are dreaming of a final four finish in Columbia and a state trophy.

Nichols says he and his team talked about what it’s going to take to make that dream a reality. “I’m looking for five girls that want to take that No. 2 ranking and turn it into a No. 1 in March,” Nichols says.

Gilman is certainly on board. She and her fellow seniors and sophomore standout Alli Ball have put in the time and effort in the offseason. They’re gym rats who live for the game. “They were in the gym before school three to five days a week every week,” Nichols says. “The work ethic has always been there.”

By getting after it the way they have, the senior class has shown the younger athletes the type of dedication and effort it takes to turn their dreams into a reality. It has opened some eyes within the program and the school. “Take Alli Ball, she looked at what they were doing and said she was going to work harder,” Nichols says. “She’s become our hardest worker. It’s nice to see that impact on a program.”

If all goes well, by the time you read this, Gilman will have crossed the 1,000 point plateau. She was 12 points shy of the milestone as of Jan. 20. Fellow senior standout Kara Johnson could reach that same number toward the end of the regular season, as well.

Gilman, the only sister among six siblings and four older brothers, doesn’t really get all wrapped up in 1,000 points. She’d rather get it over with and move on. She’s measuring success by wins and losses, not point totals. “It’s a nice milestone to achieve,” she says.