Lady Mustangs climb over .500 mark
As Evergreen Park prepares for the start of the state tournament in less than two weeks, coach Bruce Scaduto is hoping the Lady Mustangs can enter it with both a positive attitude and winning record.
Evergreen has each trait going for it at the moment. Ledger-wise, the Lady Mustangs climbed over the .500 mark last Friday by edging Shepard 51-49 in a South Suburban Conference Red contest.
Maddie Bojacek’s two free throws with 10 seconds remaining provided Evergreen’s margin of victory. Erica Carridine led a balanced Lady Mustangs attack with 13 points, while Nicole Larkin and Megan Pfister joined her in double figures by scoring 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Friday’s triumph balanced out a tough 47-40 SSC Red setback to Richards earlier in the week. Evergreen (13-12) fell behind the Lady Bulldogs 13-4 in the first quarter and was never able to completely wipe out the deficit.
The Lady Astros found themselves in a somewhat similar position versus the Lady Mustangs, albeit with one major difference.
“We were leading throughout the game, and we let them catch up and take the lead for a while,” Scaduto said. “But to the [Evergreen] girls’ credit, they worked hard and took the lead back.
“You need to get a couple of close games like that. We’ve had close ones all year, and we’ve been evenly split on the good and bad end of those games in the past. Hopefully, this one will turn us around.
“We have two tough games this week, against Reavis and Oak Lawn. The good thing is both games are at home. Hopefully, we can build on this one.”
In the closing moments against Shepard, the Lady Mustangs found themselves trailing before Carridine converted a game-tying three-point play.
“To be able to tie up the game — that kind of showed that maybe we were tired of losing and wanted to fight back and win a game that I felt we were capable of winning,” Scaduto said. “Defensively, down the stretch, we did a nice job in a way that we weren’t as effective with in the third quarter.
“Also, we were missing some free throws in the third and early fourth [quarters]. Down the stretch, we made our foul shots — our last three or four [coming] in the clutch.”
Scaduto told his players to relax in free-throw situations and used creativity to keep Bojacek loose before she sank the deciding points at the stripe.
“I told Maddie something funny to calm her nerves, and it worked for her,” he said. “We played good defense in the closing seconds. I instructed them not to give up a 3 and they defended well on the perimeter — Shepard had a corner shot, but we rebounded the miss just as the buzzer sounded.”
Courtney Dalton was solid for the Lady Astros (5-18, 2-8) in defeat as she totaled 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Pfister tossed in a game-high 16 points for Evergreen versus Richards. After falling behind by nine early, the Lady Mustangs narrowed the gap, but still were in arrears at both the second- and third-period breaks.
Their Achilles heel was 31 percent shooting.
“We were playing catch-up throughout the whole game,” Scaduto said. “Richards got a six-point lead and we would catch up; they got [another] six-point lead and we again would catch up. [But] we never really got ahead.
“It was also a game that we weren’t balanced in our scoring. They just outplayed us on that night and we didn’t have the best shooting night. We had a hard time shooting, and we only went to the free-throw line once.
“We were settling for the outside shot too much and not attacking the basket like we needed to be — you’re not going to win many games that way. We outscored them in the second quarter [by four] and third [by one], and they only outscored us by one in the fourth, so that first quarter pretty much made the difference.”
The Lady Mustangs didn’t allow the same thing to happen on Friday, largely by exhibiting more aggressiveness against Shepard. Evergreen ended the opening stanza up by six.
“That kind of gives you a little confidence boost — when you get up and not down,” Scaduto said. “We had much better shot selection. We didn’t take nearly as many 3-pointers. We were driving to the basket and were able to get the ball down the floor pretty effectively.
“It was a better night shooting. We had four girls finish in double figures, so our scoring was much more balanced.”
Pacing Richards in its win was Sydni Tears, who burned the Lady Mustangs with 15 points and eight rebounds. Also lending a hand for the Lady Bulldogs were Taylor Sonichsen (11 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), Brianna Kuchenny (seven points, six rebounds), Andy Sonichsen (six points, three rebounds) and Carly Stazak (four points, three steals).
While his team was ahead at each quarter stop, Richards coach Jeff Kortz still felt the Lady Bulldogs had weathered a stern challenge.
“Evergreen is a well-coached team with some good players that can really shoot the rock,” he said. “I thought we shot free throws down the stretch well, and that helped us get the win.”
The victory over Evergreen was one of three garnered by the Lady Bulldogs last week. They also downed Argo (49-45) in another SSC Red contest on Thursday and defeated Romeoville (59-48) in a Saturday nonconference matchup.
The game against the Lady Argonauts started inauspiciously for Richards as it gave up the first 10 points. The Lady Bulldogs recovered quickly, however, as they got within three by the end of the opening period and then found themselves in a tie at halftime (24-all) and after three frames (39-all).
“We fought back nicely in the first quarter, and I thought we had a really nice second quarter offensively,” Kortz said. “We [also] did some nice things on offense and ran some of our sets well in the third quarter.
“I was very happy the way we ran our offense for the most part. I’m very proud of the way the girls are playing down the stretch.”
Tears was once again Richards’ headliner with 27 points and seven rebounds. Taylor Sonichsen (nine points, seven assists), Kuchenny (five points) and Christina Kwartnik (four points, four steals) were other key figures for the Lady Bulldogs.
After spotting Romeoville a slim lead in the opening quarter, Richards roared back to hold a seven-point halftime edge and nine-point advantage after 24 minutes. Tears (19 points), Kuchenny (nine), Kwartnik (nine) and Stazak (eight) paced the Lady Bulldogs.
“I am happy the way we have been shooting the ball lately,” Kortz said. “A lot of extra work has been put in by the girls. We have been spreading it around, and a lot of different girls are stepping up at the right times.”
Following two SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue losses last week, the Lady Chargers pinned a 42-40 defeat on District 230 sister school Sandburg on Friday.
Stagg was also in front of the Lady Eagles by a deuce after each of the first two stanzas, but Sandburg’s 16-6 run in the third quarter put it in a good position entering the final period.
“They outplayed us in every aspect of the game during that eight-minute third-quarter stretch,” Lady Chargers coach Bill Turner said of the Lady Eagles. “We were getting beat down the floor in transition and also getting hurt by offensive rebounding and putback baskets.”
Things grew worse for Stagg, as Sandburg extended its lead to 38-27 with just 2:21 remaining. But after 5-foot-1 guard Alex Abed drew an offensive foul, the Lady Chargers gained a huge shot of momentum.
“She is the smallest player on the floor and leads our team in charges taken on the year,” Turner said of Abed.
What followed for the Lady Chargers was a 3-point barrage and the application of a full-court pressure defense. Still down 38-29, Stagg’s rally got started on the offensive end with a Casey McMahon 3-point basket with 1:35 left.
After the Lady Eagles retaliated with a hoop of their own, McMahon (10 points, seven rebounds) struck again from long distance, which drew the Lady Chargers within 40-35 at the 35-second mark.
Stagg was then forced to foul, but caught a break when Sandburg was unable to extend its advantage at the charity stripe. Noor Elmosa (10 points) deposited a third 3-pointer for the Lady Chargers in as many possessions, and the Lady Eagles’ lead was down to two with 24 seconds remaining.
Stagg’s pressure then forced a Sandburg turnover on an inbounds play, which set the stage for Hannah Henderson to drill a go-ahead 3-ball on the Lady Chargers’ behalf. After another Lady Eagles miscue, McMahon set the final margin with a free throw.
Sandburg tried one more inbounds pass, but it was intercepted at mid-court as time expired.
“The girls never gave up,” Turner said, “and this is a testament to the effort, enthusiasm and determination they compete with each and every game.”
Mia DiGiacomo also aided the Stagg cause with eight points and eight rebounds.
Lockport began the Lady Chargers’ week by tagging them with a heartbreaking 41-40 setback on Tuesday.
The Lady Porters used a driving layup in the last three seconds to pocket the victory. That basket followed an Abed floater that had briefly inched Stagg in front with 12 seconds remaining.
“We had a team defensive breakdown on that last play that cost us at the end,” Turner said. “We let one get away, but you will never hear me complain about our effort and attitude.
“You have to give credit to Lockport. Their player made a good, strong move to the basket.”
The Lady Chargers had been behind at each of the first three quarter stops, including 16-6 after the initial frame. Stagg was within three at halftime and the end of the third period.
McMahon (17 points), DiGiacomo (seven points, six rebounds), Henderson (six points) and Kate Adams (six) were the Lady Chargers’ most influential figures in defeat.
Lincoln-Way East beat Stagg 46-29 last Wednesday, thanks to a nightmarish offensive showing by the latter in the first half. The Lady Chargers canned only two shots in 22 attempts and were behind 25-5 at intermission.
“We played much better in the second half, on both ends of the floor, outscoring East 24-21,” Turner said. “However, you are not going to beat very many teams shooting 9-for-39 [from the field], especially, one as talented as Lincoln-Way East.”
McMahon and DiGiacomo each had eight points for Stagg.
The Lady Eagles (15-11, 6-6) had better luck in their other SWSC Blue encounter last week, as they tripped up Joliet West 42-30 on Tuesday.
Keying Sandburg’s win were Sam Youngwirth and Victoria Stavropoulos, who tallied 13 and 12 points, respectively.
The Lady Spartans improved their season ledger to 22-1 after winning two more games last week. Oak Lawn rolled over Reavis 47-28 in an SSC Red clash on Tuesday that clinched the division title for it and then manhandled Illiana Christian 64-20 on Thursday.
Although the Lady Spartans also beat the Lady Rams handily, they struggled to find their groove. Oak Lawn endured its lowest-scoring opening quarter of the season and led just 6-4 after eight minutes.
“Reavis came out intense and put the pressure on us defensively, and they did a good job of stopping our transition game,” Lady Spartans coach Janet Meyers said. “We turned the ball over too many times  in the first quarter.
“We did not match their intensity and we were not focused. It was a frustrating first quarter.”
Things improved, but not right away as the Lady Rams hung close for much of the second period. Consecutive baskets by Brooke Annerino and Jannah Mahmoud finally gave Oak Lawn a bit of breathing room.
“We talked about the need to control the boards, step up our defense and score in transition during halftime,” Meyers said. “We did all those things in the third quarter. We also did a better job of running our half-court offense.
“I told [our players] I wanted them to have a strong third quarter since we did not do that in the first quarter. It is our goal to come out strong and take control of the game in the first quarter.”
LaTondra Brooks scored on a driving layup off an assist from Annerino and then Brooks fed Mahmoud for a jump shot at the start of the third stanza. The Lady Spartans scored on 10-of-11 possessions and held a comfortable 40-19 advantage after three quarters.
In addition to its offense, Oak Lawn made some steals and forced Reavis into taking several bad shots during the pivotal period. That created a number of transition baskets for the Lady Spartans.
Brooks (13 points, eight steals) was Oak Lawn’s headliner, but Mahmoud (12 points, five blocks), Annerino (11 points, three assists, three steals) and Brianna Markusic (seven points, seven rebounds) also delivered solid performances.
The strong opening quarter Meyers desires was in evidence against the Lady Vikings, who found themselves buried in a 30-9 hole after the first eight minutes on Thursday.
“After our poor first quarter against Reavis, I was very happy with our performance [here],” Meyers said. “Brooks had 10 points and seven steals in the first quarter and Mahmoud had 11 points.
“The first quarter was enough to take the wind out of Illiana’s sails. This is the first time we have played Illiana and we didn’t know what to expect, [so] we wanted to come out strong in the first quarter and take control of the game.”
Meyers was also pleased the win came on Parents Night, and that everyone on the Lady Spartans’ roster got to play and score.
“It was a good win and great morale booster,” she said. “With this win, we broke the [program’s] season-win record [which was set a year ago].”
Brooks’ 14 steals also established a single-game standard for Oak Lawn, breaking by one the previous mark that she also owned. Besides her thefts, Brooks provided the Lady Spartans with 12 points and eight assists.
Also pitching in were Mahmoud (15 points, three assists, three steals), Markusic (10 points), Dana Greene (eight points), Kelsey Luckett (six points, five steals, three assists) and Dee Dee Shatat (six points).
The Mighty Macs laid claim to the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Tournament championship by winning three times last week. The clincher came on Saturday, when Mother McAuley brushed aside Loyola Academy 58-54.
Prior to that victory, the Macs got the better of Resurrection (43-34) in Monday’s quarterfinal matchup and Trinity (56-48) in Wednesday’s semifinal.
Elizabeth Nye’s 21 points and five assists were instrumental in McAuley’s title-game conquest of the Lady Ramblers, as were solid efforts from Molly O’Malley (11 points) and Jasma Williams (seven points, seven rebounds). The tourney championship was the Macs’ first since 2000.
Williams’ offensive rebound and putback with 2:28 left broke a 52-all tie and gave McAuley (17-8) the lead for keeps. She then sank a free throw with 8.4 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game.
Nye supplied nine of the Macs’ 15 fourth-quarter points.
Resurrection had McAuley reeling a bit in the quarterfinal encounter, but the Macs used a 16-0 run to expunge a 31-23 deficit they were facing late in the third quarter and seize command of the proceedings.
Williams (16 points, nine rebounds) and Erin Drynan (12 points, 13 rebounds) led McAuley on a day when Nye struggled with her shooting. The latter still managed to deliver nine points while also pulling down seven boards.
O’Malley’s 24 points, which included four 3-point baskets, were at the heart of the Macs’ triumph over Trinity, which had gotten the better of McAuley less than two weeks earlier. The Macs tallied 20 first-period points and trailed only after the game’s initial bucket.
Along with O’Malley — who missed equaling her career-high point total by just four — McAuley received measurable assistance from Nye, who scored 11 points. The Macs were ahead 22-7 at one juncture, but Trinity fought back with within 46-43 midway through the final frame.
However, McAuley answered the threat with six consecutive points, a spurt capped by Raven Willis’ rebound of a missed Williams free throw and ensuing layup.
QUEEN OF PEACE
The Pride experienced, at last, the joy of victory in the first round of last Monday’s GCAC White Tournament as they defeated St. Benedict 48-30 at De La Salle.
Jelyn Chua had 14 points and six assists for Queen of Peace (1-23), Maggie Bennett tossed in 11 points, and Allie Herman added 10 points and four rebounds. All 11 Pride players participated in the contest and everyone saw at least three minutes of action.
“Abbie Bennett ran our offense very efficiently and played excellent defense,” Peace coach George Shimko said. “We also did a great job of taking care of the basketball, which resulted in the fact that we did not have one turnover for the entire game.”
Also contributing against St. Benedict were Nicole Carli and Samantha Serrano, each of whom grabbed five rebounds, and Jacklyn Pulido, who came off the bench to tally five clutch points.
The Pride’s 48 points represented a season high, as did their 11 assists.
Herman’s 14 points led Peace in Wednesday’s semifinal, but the Pride fell short of the host Lady Meteors by a 46-34 count.
The Lady Knights went 1-2 last week in Suburban Christian Conference play, with the win coming on Friday against Wheaton-St. Francis. Kaycee Pittman scored 19 points for Chicago Christian in its 50-46 triumph, while Anica Pausma and Anna Personnaire chipped in 13 apiece.
The news wasn’t as positive earlier in the week, as the Lady Knights suffered setbacks versus both Wheaton Academy (52-47) and St. Edward (46-35). Personnaire’s 19 points and six rebounds topped Christian (7-14, 3-7) on Wednesday, while Pittman tossed in 11 to show the way against the Lady Waves on Saturday.
The Screeching Eagles opened the GCAC White Tournament with a 52-15 victory over Josephinum, but then dropped a 54-31 decision to Gordon Tech in last Wednesday’s semifinals.
MaryKate Wetzel’s 16 points boosted Mt. Assisi (11-15) to its win.
The Lady RedHawks fell to 11-12 overall and 3-5 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference after falling short against Providence Catholic, 52-46, on Saturday.