Julia Ruzevich's progress from a freshman role player to rising star in the Great Lakes Valley Conference is complete.
Her career-high 27-point game Thursday night against Missouri-St. Louis put the stamp on that.
Ruzevich, the 6-foot freshman forward from Orland Park, Ill., kept the Hawks in the game with her offensive exploits. Quincy lost 91-75 at the Mark Twain Building in St. Louis, but it was a seven-point game going to the fourth quarter before the Tritons continually gave the ball to 6-foot-3 senior center Jordan Fletcher, who scored seven of the first 10 points of the final quarter.
Fletcher, the Quincy High School graduate, finished with a career-high 34 points, but made note of Ruzevich's performance.
"She created some mismatch problems for us," Fletcher said. "For a while there, we were just trading buckets."
Part of the reason for the matchup issues was the fact Ruzevich showcased a perimeter game for the first time this season.
She made two 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished 5 of 10 from 3-point range overall. Coming into the game, Ruzevich had been 1 of 17 from 3-point range going into the game.
"I was talking to my dad and he said, ‘You have to have confidence in your shot,'" Ruzevich said. "The first couple games, I missed my threes and I stopped shooting them completely. But I thought, hey, we have two games left. What do I have to lose? So I decided I was going to shoot them if I was open.
"They felt awesome today. After I made two in a row, the confidence was there and I kept shooting them."
Ruzevich finished 10 of 16 from the field with six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It adds to an overall impressive body of work. Ruzevich is averaging 8.2 points and four rebounds per game heading into Saturday's season finale at home against McKendree. She leads the Hawks with 38 steals and is second with 11 blocked shots. She's second in field goal shooting at 42.6 percent.
Her numbers compare favorably with some of the other top freshmen in the league.
UMSL freshman forward Alex LaPorta is averaging 7.8 points and 8.7 rebounds coming off the bench for the Tritons and creates a matchup with Ruzevich worth watching the next three years.
"I've said all along by the time LaPorta is a senior she's going to something else," Fletcher said. "I think the same thing for (Ruzevich)."
McKendree freshman guard Sydney Diekhoff is averaging 12 points and 1.8 rebounds per game, but she is more of an outside threat with 49 made 3-pointers.
Truman State freshman forward Katie Jaseckas is averagin 10.7 points and eight rebounds, while shooting 55.4 percent from the field with a season high of 20 points against Missouri Western.
Drury freshman guard Payton Richards is averaging 7.2 points and two assists per game. William Jewell freshman guard Sydney Offeld is averaging 8.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, but has just 16 points in her last six games. Indianapolis freshman guard Taylor Drury is averaging 10.1 points, 4.7 rebounds and a season-high 25 points against William Jewell.
"Anytime you can add versatility to your game by hitting the three, taking it inside, taking it outside, being able to post up, that's only going to help your game grow," QU coach Jeni Garber said. "We're seeing that from Julia."
Thin bench, thin frontcourt
Injuries limited what the Hawks could do to combat Fletcher's height and power advantage inside.
Sophomore center Alexa Low, who is averaging 6.2 points and five rebounds per game and leads QU with 32 blocked shots, missed her second straight game with an ankle injury, while freshman forward Kate Ruzevich sat out after tweaking her knee in practice. Ruzevich had seen an uptick in her minutes and production the past five games.
Low isn't expected to play Saturday against McKendree, while Ruzevich could be available.
One last hurrah
Saturday will mark the final game for senior forward Anika Webster -- the lone senior on the Hawks' roster.
The 5-foot-10 senior forward from Springfield, Ill., is the Hawks' leading scorer at 17 points per game, while averaging 5.2 rebounds per game. She has scored in double figures in all but one game this season. In GLVC play, Webster is averaging 17.5 points per game and shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and 84 percent from the free-throw line.