Mighty Macs not to be ‘de-Nye-d’
When Mother McAuley’s Elizabeth Nye suffered a concussion in the Mighty Macs’ recent setback against neighborhood rival Marist and was out of action for a week, it had an adverse effect on McAuley in losses to Regina, Trinity and Loyola Academy.
But Nye was back in the lineup last Wednesday night against Hillcrest, and although it took a half for her to regain her groove as a difference-maker, the Macs were back in form themselves from the get-go as they posted a 61-54 victory over the Lady Hawks in Mount Greenwood.
Nye, who had been limited to five first-half points, finished with 22 and seven rebounds. Molly O’Malley added 15 points, Raven Willis totaled 14 points and eight rebounds, and Erin Drynan grabbed 10 rebounds for McAuley (15-8), which had lost four of its last five games.
In the process, the Macs also ended Hillcrest’s six-game winning streak.
“We had a rough stint for about a week,” McAuley coach Ashley-Luke Clanton said. “Without Elizabeth, it was tough. With the win over Hillcrest, we kind of feel like we have our feet back under us.
“We hadn’t been shooting the ball well in the previous games, and I felt we shot the ball much better against Hillcrest. Elizabeth plays so many minutes for us, and having her back is vital for us, no doubt.”
The Macs were reeling early in the fourth quarter after an 8-0 Hillcrest run trimmed their lead to a single point, but McAuley immediately responded with a 12-0 surge of its own to seal the victory.
“We also did a good job of taking care of the basketball against Hillcrest and were able to get some nice open looks,” Luke-Clanton said. “I’m proud of the girls. They played some smart basketball and did a nice job.”
The Lady Hawks held a 25-22 edge as the half was closing out, but O’Malley hit her fourth 3-point basket of the game to create a tie score. Nye picked up where O’Malley left off at the start the third quarter, and she followed her own 3-ball with some additional buckets. McAuley’s lead then got extended to 41-32, courtesy of a Willis 3-pointer.
After a Hillcrest rally that forced the Macs into some turnovers, O’Malley’s 3-pointer and a basket by Nye put McAuley back in control with a double-digit lead.
While having Nye back was an obvious shot in the arm for the Macs, Luke-Clanton said other players who stepped up during her absence made tremendous strides while being stretched and called upon to do more.
“When you’re used to your role, it’s tough when you’re handed a new role,” Luke-Clanton said. “It was good for us in the long run because it made the girls have to handle the ball a little bit more and have to handle pressure a little bit more. And that will make us that much stronger down the stretch.”
Luke-Clanton said one player, in particular, evolved during the Nye-less span.
“Molly O’Malley really stepped up,” she said. “She had to play the point, which is out of her comfort zone, but she’s been so much a tougher player in the past couple of weeks than she was in the beginning of the season. I really think it has put her in a different frame of mind.
“She’s been playing some defense and really knows how to handle the ball for us — and she’s tough to take the ball from. She’s a much stronger player now.”
After playing in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Tournament this week, the Macs finish their regular season with road contests against Illinois’ No. 1 team in Class 2A, St. Thomas More of Champaign, and Zion-Benton.
“We still have two tough games left after the conference tournament,” Luke-Clanton said. “We’re hoping that we’re peaking at the right time.”
The Lady Chargers dropped a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue contest to highly ranked Bolingbrook, 56-43, last Thursday despite solid individual efforts from Casey McMahon (18 points, including five 3-pointers) and Mia DiGiacomo (12 points, 17 rebounds).
McMahon has now made 55 3s this season, while DiGiacomo’s double-double was her sixth of the year and second versus the Lady Raiders. Kate Adams contributed seven points, three rebounds and two steals for Stagg (9-11, 3-6).
The contest’s outcome was not really determined until the final three minutes. The Lady Chargers were within 46-40 at the 3:21 mark, but were unable to make one last push.
“We had possession of the basketball and just could not convert down the stretch,” Stagg coach Bill Turner said. “When you play those very talented teams, you must take advantage of your opportunities, execute, and limit your own mistakes.”
The game was close throughout the opening half, as the teams were tied at 10-all after one period and Bolingbrook held a slim four-point advantage midway through. When it opened the third stanza with a couple of easy baskets resulting from turnovers, Turner called a timeout to get his players regrouped.
“Despite the best efforts of our team, we were unable to close the gap and found ourselves trailing by 12 points [42-30] after three quarters,” he said. “That first couple of minutes after halftime has been problematic for us all season.”
A couple of mental mistakes — what Turner defined as missed assignments on defense — at crucial times and 10-of-23 foul shooting plagued the Lady Chargers. Still, the coach was not entirely disenchanted.
“We are a young team overall and have competed with those ranked teams for the most part,” Turner said. “Of our 11 losses, seven have come at the hands of teams ranked in the top 20. The girls don’t realize how close they are to becoming one of those elite teams.”
Stagg has five more conference games remaining before entering regional play the week of Feb. 17.
The Lady Spartans improved to 20-1 overall and 9-1 in the South Suburban Conference Red with a 69-41 rout of Shepard last Thursday night.
Dee Dee Shatat paced Oak Lawn with 16 points and seven rebounds, but several other players chipped in as well. LaTondra Brooks supplied the Lady Spartans with 15 points, 10 steals, five rebounds and three assists, and both Brianna Markusic (12 points) and Jannah Mahmoud (10 points, eight rebounds) also delivered double-digit scoring. Brooke Annerino totaled seven points and three assists.
“We struggled a little in the beginning of the first quarter because of the type of defense that Shepard was running,” Oak Lawn coach Janet Meyers said. “It was something we hadn’t seen before and it took the girls a little bit to adjust to running our offense in the half-court set.”
Meyers said her team did a great job on the boards and credited Brooks with ratcheting up the Lady Spartans’ defense with six first-half steals, which allowed Oak Lawn to score several transition baskets.
“They were putting a lot of pressure on LaTondra and Brooke in their half-court defense, which left our off-guard open on the outside,” Meyers said.
Shatat took advantage of that opening and shot well, hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the first half and helping the Lady Spartans construct an insurmountable 42-19 halftime lead. Shatar finished with four 3s in the contest.
“We are down to nine players now — we have 10, but one is hurt,” Meyers said. “[So] it was nice to see Dee Dee give us some quality time off the bench, along with Kellie O’Connor (three points), Kaylee Gattone (two) and Alyssa Radoicic (four).
“Shepard was a scrappy team. They played hard and forced us to make adjustments to our offense.”
Courtney Dalton and Dae Jae Williams paced the Lady Astros (5-17, 2-7) with 14 and 11 points, respectively. Dalton recorded all but three of her markers during the third quarter.
After last Tuesday’s game against Morton was cancelled due to frigid temperatures, the Lady Bulldogs defeated Mt. Assisi 47-46 on Thursday.
Richards was behind 10-9 after the first quarter, but rebounded to lead 26-21 at halftime and 44-35 after three periods. Anita Robinson sank the game-winning free throw for the Lady Bulldogs (8-11) with 12.9 seconds left in the nonconference game.
Leading the way for Richards was Carly Stazak, whose 15 points were generated on 5-of-9 shooting from behind the arc. Also contributing were Sydni Tears (14 points, eight rebounds), Brianna Kuchenny (six points, five rebounds), Christina Kwartnik (five points, five rebounds) and Taylor Sonichsen (eight rebounds, seven assists).
Pacing the Screeching Eagles (10-14) in defeat were Jess Moriarty (11 points) and Kathleen Murphy (nine).
Richards was slated to play Evergreen Park, Argo and Romeoville this week.
“With the weather, we will see,” Lady Bulldogs coach Jeff Kortz said.
The Lady Eagles improved to 13-10 overall and 4-5 in the SWSC Blue by rolling over Joliet Central 47-28 last Wednesday.
Sam Youngwirth scored 12 points and Julia Ruzevich added 10 to ignite visiting Sandburg.
Behind Zoe Monks’ 24 points and 19 from Nicole Larkin, the Lady Mustangs defeated Eisenhower 64-55 in an SSC Red matchup last Thursday night. With the win, Evergreen Park improved to 12-11 overall and 3-6 in conference action.
The Lady Knights dropped a 45-37 decision to Rosary on Thursday in a Suburban Christian Conference crossover game. Kiersten Merrick, Anna Persenaire and Abbie Bulthuis had eight points apiece for visiting Chicago Christian (6-13).