South Elgin's girls basketball team has a slightly new look this season, and so far it's been working just fine.
Despite only scoring 2 points in the first half, senior Loyola signee Becca Smith cranked it up when her team needed her the most, finishing with 22 points as the Storm downed McHenry 61-51 Monday night in a Dundee-Crown Thanksgiving tournament game played at South Elgin.
"I think this is a team where I can focus more on defense and being a true point guard," said Smith, who now stands 1 point short of 1,500 for her career. "That's the role I want to play."
Smith's defense has rarely been better than it was Monday. She cut into McHenry's passing lanes numerous times and turned 7 steals into 5 assists. She then turned her offensive game on in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of her points in the final period, including hitting 10 of 11 free throws. For the game she was 14 of 15 from the stripe.
"Becca's been sick and she struggled a little shooting tonight but she'll get her rhythm," said South Elgin coach Tim Prendergast, whose team moved to 4-0 for the season with a big early-season test awaiting tonight at 5:30 p.m. when the Storm takes on Hononegah and 6-foot-4 Wisconsin recruit Nicole Smith at Dundee-Crown.
After an even first quarter South Elgin, off to the first 4-0 start in program history, eventually took a 27-20 lead late in the second that was cut to 27-23 when McHenry's Emma Romme hit one of her five 3-pointers in the game at the buzzer. Romme hit another 3 to open the second half to make it a 27-26 game but the Storm went on a 9-0 run and used a bucket from Kennede Miller (10 points, 5 rebounds) to take a 36-26 lead with 4:41 left in the third.
McHenry never got closer than 4 points the rest of the way. The Warriors did close the gap to 54-49 on 2 free throws by Laura D'Angelo with 1:33 to play but Smith made 6 straight from the line over the next minute to ice the win for the Storm.
South Elgin won despite still missing three players with injuries and being outrebounded 42-23.
"I knew (McHenry) was bigger," Prendergast said. "Most teams are going to bigger than us. We'll have a height disadvantage pretty much every night so we just have to be creative in the way we do things.
"I'm happy. We're playing good teams in this tournament. We've got some weaknesses right now but we're also playing short-handed with some injuries."
Savanah Uveges added 11 points for the Storm, Miller had 10 and Anna Tracy 8. Senior Alexa Matison also gave South Elgin a lift with 10 points, including hitting three 3-pointers.
"I think this can be a special team," said Smith. "As we get deeper into the season and start clicking more, we'll be even better."