Mighty Macs right on track
In assessing her team’s performance after a pair of convincing wins last week, Mother McAuley coach Ashley Luke-Clanton is convinced that Mighty Macs players are starting to figure each other out and learning how to play together.
That conviction could hardly be debated after McAuley cruised to a 62-43 victory over Providence Catholic on Tuesday and then defeated Stagg 56-39 on Thursday to improve to 6-2 on the young season.
Elizabeth Nye finished with 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds to lead the Macs past the Lady Celtics, but McAuley also received double-doubles from Jasma Williams (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Erin Drynan (14 points, 14 rebounds). The outcome of the game was pretty much decided in the first six minutes.
Molly O’Malley was the Macs’ top gun versus the Lady Chargers as she tossed in a game-high 21 points. McAuley jumped out to an early lead and then closed out Stagg with some clutch free throws.
“The kids are playing really well together right now,” Luke-Clanton said. “They had a nice win against Providence and a good game against Stagg after that. They’re starting to do some things that are making them really fun to watch. It was a fun week for us.
“We know that we have a lot of girls who can do a lot of things for us, and we’re starting to see more of that. We hadn’t had a lot of post production from the offensive side until this [past] week, [but] they’re starting to figure things out. Our guards are getting more comfortable to get them the ball and the post players are working harder to get the ball, [and] they’re finishing things.”
Against Providence, Nye ran the Macs’ offense from the point, which is a new responsibility for the talented guard. She scored 11 first-half points to help establish the lead, dished out assists on four of McAuley’s five third-quarter baskets and ripped down five rebounds.
During a six-minute span, the Lady Celtics missed their first nine shots and either misfired or turned the ball over on eight consecutive possessions. The Macs, meanwhile, embarked on a 9-0 run that O’Malley started with a 3-point basket and Nye concluded with a driving layup.
“Elizabeth has been at excellent at the point-guard spot, especially in this past week,” Luke-Clanton said. “Her decision-making has been very good. She knows when to take it to the basket, when to give it up, and when to stop and pop for a soft spot shot. She’s starting to get comfortable at the point.”
Nye was solid from the outside for McAuley in the opening half, making four field goals and hitting her first three free throws. Another big reason the Macs were able to build a 34-19 halftime advantage was Drynan.
The 6-foot-2 forward dominated under the basket during the first 16 minutes, scoring eight points and pulling down 11 rebounds. Drynan is in her comeback season after missing her sophomore campaign with back issues.
“Erin has really stepped up,” Luke-Clanton said. “The growth she’s had in the past couple of weeks has been fun. It’s even fun to go back and watch the film and see what she’s doing out there on the court.
“She registers big blocks every game and knows where to be. It’s fun to see her grow.”
Most telling, in regard to McAuley’s inside game, was the 30 points scored against Providence. That total was much more than what the Macs produced in all of last season.
“It was fun to watch and fun to see the inside players start to come into their own a little bit,” Luke-Clanton said.
The Lady Celtics shaved a 16-point deficit down to 45-36 with 1:58 remaining, but then failed to score on their final six possessions of the quarter. McAuley regained a double-digit lead on two free throws by Raven Willis and one from Williams.
Williams, a 5-11 forward, was the most productive Mac in the second half with 14 points and nine rebounds. Three of her baskets came on successive layups, all of which were set up with assists from Nye.
Perhaps most amazing about McAuley’s success to date has been that it has taken place without any help from last season’s leading scorer Lauren Carlson, who has been sidelined with an injury. Luke-Clanton is hoping to have her star player back within the next two weeks.
“With Laruen Carlson, we still have another piece to add to the puzzle — that’s kind of exciting,” the coach said. “Having her back will allow us to do some different things with different lineups. We’re excited to get her back in the next week or so.”
A week ago, Luke-Clanton admitted that she was a bit apprehensive after the Macs opened the season with a 4-2 mark, but it now appears they have cleared whatever imagined hurdle might have been placed in their path.
“We were a little concerned in the first couple of games,” she said. “It took them a while to warm up. I was also concerned about our guard play, but we’ve had some girls step up and make solid plays for us.
“Molly O’Malley had a couple of games where she scored boatloads of points, and she has really opened up the offense for us. Shea O’Malley was a spark off our bench and gave us some real solid minutes against Providence with a steal, a reverse layup and 3-point basket, and Molly McGinty has also given us solid minutes.”
McAuley returns to action tonight against St. Joseph and then faces North Lawndale at Whitney Young on Saturday.
The Lady Chargers got off to a slow start in their game against McAuley, both offensively and defensively, which resulted in a 17-5 first-quarter deficit for Stagg. And the Lady Chargers were never able to completely recover in their home opener.
“Getting off to that slow start really hurt us,” Stagg coach Bill Turner said. “We found ourselves behind 16 at halftime (28-12), and that’s a big obstacle to overcome, especially against a talented and well-coached team like Mother McAuley.”
The Lady Chargers (2-3) were only able to muster up three baskets in the entire opening half, two of those coming from junior guard Alex Abed (five points) and the other from junior forward Mia DiGiacomo (six points, eight rebounds). Stagg’s other five points were generated at the foul line.
The Lady Chargers’ first-half woes, Turner said, were a microcosm of all five of their games to date.
“We have not shot the ball well at all these first five games,” he said, “and when you couple that with an average or below-average defensive effort, you are just asking for trouble.
“We are getting good looks at the basket, but the ball is not going in. We are going to concentrate more on some [better] shot selection and, hopefully, things will turn around.”
One silver lining for Stagg was the fact that it was able to mount something of a comeback against the Macs in the second half. Senior guard Casey McMahon (19 points, four rebounds) caught fire and hit six consecutive 3-point field goals between the third and fourth quarters, which cut the deficit in half and had the Lady Chargers within eight at the six-minute mark.
Senior guard Hannah Henderson (five rebounds, four assists, and five steals) also contributed plenty to the comeback on both ends of the floor.
“She always draws the toughest defensive assignment and is doing a great job, getting lot of tips, deflections and steals,” Turner said of Henderson.
McAuley iced the game at the charity stripe, however, as it converted 9-of-14 free throws down the stretch. Nevertheless, Stagg’s comeback was duly noted by Turner gave him a sense of optimism regarding future contests.
“McAuley is a good basketball team, and I was happy to see our girls compete and make a run in the second half,” Turner said. “We just dug ourselves too deep a hole early on, [but] we are moving in the right direction and will continue to work hard in practice every day.”
After a nonconference battle against Andrew earlier in the week, the Lady Chargers will open SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue play on Friday at home against Homewood-Flossmoor.
The Lady Spartans continued their winning ways last week, improving their record to 7-0 after victories over Morton (81-35 on Tuesday) and TF North (65-39) in a South Suburban Conference crossover contest on Thursday.
Brianna Markusic tallied 17 points and eight rebounds to power visiting Oak Lawn past Morton. LaTondra Brooks (14 points, 13 steals) Jannah Mahmoud (13 points, 11 rebounds) each recorded double-doubles, and Brooke Annerino (10 points, five assists) also starred for the Lady Spartans.
Others finding their way into the scorebook for Oak Lawn were Aaliyah Griffen (eight points) and Dee Dee Shatat (six points). The Lady Spartans immediately took control with a 33-4 first quarter.
“Our press was very effective, and we did a good job of scoring in transition and on the fast break,” Oak Lawn coach Janet Meyers said. “All five starters scored in the first quarter for us — LaTondra Brooks scored 12 of her 14 points.”
Annerino (15 points, three assists, four steals) and Mahmoud (14 points, nine rebounds) starred for the Lady Spartans at home against the Lady Meteors. Brooks aided the cause with 12 points, seven assists and five steals, while Kellie O’Connor and Kelsey Luckett each pitched in with six points.
“We had another strong first quarter,” said Meyers, whose club raced out to a 21-9 advantage. “We did a nice job of scoring on the break and executing our offense. We continued to play well in the second quarter [and led 43-20 at halftime].”
Oak Lawn returns to the court tonight as it hosts Lemont in the latest Pink-Out game for breast cancer awareness.
After defeating Thornwood 44-33 last Tuesday, the Lady Bulldogs had to settle for a week’s split as they suffered a 78-21 loss to powerful Hillcrest in a South Suburban Conference crossover contest on Thursday.
Sydni Tears keyed the win over the Lady Thunderbirds with her double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds. Carly Stazak added 10 points for host Richards, and Andy Sonichsen (seven points, nine rebounds) and Brianna Kuchenny (seven points, six rebounds) both contributed to the victorious effort as well.
The Lady Bulldogs jumped out to a 12-6 lead against Thornwood, were up 20-15 at halftime and then took control by outscoring the Lady T’birds 14-7 in the third period.
“It was good to get back and start playing again,” Richards coach Jeff Kortz said. “I thought we were sloppy at times early. We got better as the game went on.
“Thornwood is athletic and well-coached, [but] I think they are young. I’m very proud after the layoff to come back and get a win.”
Tears’ seven points represented the Lady Bulldogs’ high-water mark against the Lady Hawks. Stazak and Kuchenny each scored four points, and Kortz also liked the play provided by Shannon Meegan.
What he wasn’t so crazy about was Richards’ inability to give its opponent a stronger battle.
“Hillcrest came out and took it to us, and we didn’t respond like I would have hoped,” Kortz said. “They are very good and capitalized on pretty much every mistake we made.”
The Lady Eagles scored a pair of narrow victories last week, beginning with a 76-72 overtime verdict over Lincoln-Way Central in an SWSC crossover contest. Sandburg edged Andrew 40-38 in another crossover affair on Thursday.
Sam Youngwirth, who tallied 23 points for the Lady Eagles against the Lady Knights, had to leave early in the overtime period after being struck in the nose with the basketball. However, her presence was eventually felt with a pair of big 3-point buckets down the stretch and both ends of a 1-and-1 that preserved the victory for Sandburg (5-1).
Julia Ruzevich led Sandburg (4-1) with 24 points and 15 rebounds, but her twin sister Kate also supplied a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. Also putting up impressive numbers was Victoria Stravropoulos, who collected 15 rebounds.
The Lady Eagles opened the game with a12-0 run, but Lincoln-Way Central recovered well enough from that initial assault to turn the remainder of the game into a premier nail-biter.
Sandburg actually trailed 65-60 with one minute remaining in regulation, but then got back-to-back 3s by the Ruzevich sisters to inch in front. The Lady Knights missed five shots in the final nine seconds before Hayley Holmes was fouled with two seconds left after receiving an inbounds pass.
Holmes missed the first of two shots, but sank the second with one second showing to send the game into overtime. In the extra session, Youngwirth’s first 3-point basket created a 71-70 Lady Eagles lead with 1:24 remaining and her second long shot stretched that edge out to 74-70.
Erin Cronin’s nine points paced Sandburg in its home triumph over the Lady Thunderbolts.
Behind the joint efforts of center Claire Finn and speedy guard Lorna McCall, the Lady RedHawks grabbed an early advantage over Lockport Thursday night and came away with a 53-36 victory over the Lady Porters.
The 6-foot-2 Finn and McCall combined for 30 points and 17 rebounds. Backing them was senior Brooke Wyderski, who finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
McCall (16 points, eight rebounds) and Finn (14 points, nine rebounds) produced all 14 of Marist’s first-period points. Those enabled the Lady RedHawks (6-1) to open a six-point lead, but Lockport pulled even with a mini-run early in the second stanza.
That proved to be the end of the Lady Porters’ threat, however, as Marist went on a 9-0 run that featured a 3-pointer and two free throws from Wyderski. With Lockport in the midst of a no-scoring-in-11-possessions drought, the Lady RedHawks took a 29-21 lead into intermission.
Fourteen turnover dogged the Lady Porters, as did 1-of-17 shooting from 3-point range. Slamming the door on Lockport for good was Finn, who had eight points and three rebounds for Marist in the final quarter.
The Lady RedHawks also topped Fenwick 60-55 last Tuesday behind Wyderski’s double-double of 14 points and 17 rebounds. The win came in Marist’s first East Suburban Catholic Conference matchup of the year.
The Lady Astros were another local squad that registered a split decision last week.
The win came in a nonconference contest, as Shepard defeated Francis Parker 51-31 Friday night at DePaul University. The Lady Astros held their foe to five second-half points.
Spearheading Shepard’s solid performance was Courtney Dalton, who amassed 19 points and 20 rebounds. Abby Newsome chipped in eight points and five assists, while Jenny Payne collected 10 rebounds.
One day before beating Francis Parker by 20 points, the Lady Astros (2-6, 0-1) fell by that same margin to Tinley Park in an SSC crossover game. Newsome (15 points) and Heather Blake (10) led Shepard (2-6, 0-1) in its 52-32 loss.
Also going 1-1 last week were the Lady Mustangs, who downed Chicago Christian 37-26 last Tuesday before losing 49-47 to TF South in an SSC crossover matchup on Thursday.
Nicole Larkin was Evergreen Park’s leading scorer in both outings. She tossed in 11 points against the Lady Knights, then notched 19 opposite the Lady Rebels.
The Lady Mustangs entered the current week with a 5-5 ledger.
Trisha Belgrave had eight points for Chicago Christian (1-4) against Evergreen.
QUEEN OF PEACE
The Pride dropped their Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red opener on Saturday, losing to Regina 51-26. Allie Hermann tossed in 11 points to pace visiting Queen of Peace (0-8, 0-1).
The Screeching Eagles dropped decisions to Tinley Park (50-28) and De La Salle (61-45 in a GCA White game last Tuesday and Thursday, respectively.