Cierra Stanciel brings no shortage of emotion to the basketball court, from a wide smile one moment to a scowl the next. And she knows it.
"It's like a roller coaster," said the Naperville Central sophomore. "Sometimes I'm up, sometimes I'm down."
She sent the Redhawks on quite a thrill ride Saturday.
Sparked by Stanciel's 11-point third quarter, No. 13 Naperville Central rallied to beat No. 10 Metea Valley 61-54 to win the championship of the 36th Naperville Central/Benet Tip-Off Tournament.
It is the Redhawks' ninth tournament title, first since 2009, and their sophomore transfer from Joliet Catholic is a big reason why. Stanciel scored 12 points, had 8 steals and 6 rebounds.
She banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key as time expired in the third quarter, capping an 11-0 quarter-closing run that pushed the Redhawks (6-0) ahead 43-35. Stanciel earlier had a stickback basket to tie the game, and a steal and breakaway layup.
"Is she quick or what?" asked Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum. "She's good for one steal and basket a game, and we've been on the other side of that. It's totally demoralizing for an opponent. She plays with a lot of emotion, a lot of heart, and we like that. She's a winner."
Stanciel's 3-pointer was one of 10 hit by Naperville Central. Jamie Cuny, who scored a game-high 19 points, hit 5 and Shannon Ryan had 3 in a 13-point game. A Ryan 3 to open the fourth quarter punctuated the big 14-0 run.
"I think three of my 3s were on the same play," Cuny said, "an out-of-bounds play that for some reason they didn't cover me. Shannon gets me the ball, and I hit them."
Naperville Central trailed 25-17 late in the second quarter after a Bria Walker 3-pointer for Metea Valley, Victoria Trowbridge sitting the final 3:53 of the half for the Redhawks with three fouls. Naperville Central seemed in trouble when Trowbridge was called for her fourth with six minutes left in the third quarter, down 35-32.
Still, the Redhawks got it done with limited production from Trowbridge and 11-of-26 free-throw shooting.
"That's a good win for us," Nussbaum said. "Both Haley Minick and Mary Buttgereit made key baskets off the bench. If you would have told me we'd miss that many free throws, Trowbridge wouldn't play most of the second half, and we'd win the game, I'd say no way."
Lori Obendorf had 15 points and 16 rebounds, Walker 12 points and Jenny Voytell 10 for Metea Valley (4-2), which has three starters back from a team that upset Naperville Central in regionals last year.
The Mustangs, though, are young in other spots -- particularly point guard with Nia Flowers, a sophomore transfer from Montini. It showed in the third quarter, when Metea turned it over 9 times and lost its lead.
"We lost our composure," Metea coach Kris Kalivas said. "In the first half I felt we controlled the tempo and then we came out in the third quarter and were very uncomposed. Same thing happened to us Friday (in a loss to Benet)."
Earlier Saturday, No. 18 Benet beat Providence 58-48. Christen Prasse, in her second game back from an ankle injury, had 16 points and 8 rebounds for the Redwings (5-1). Prasse's minutes were somewhat limited, but she said she's 100 percent good to go.
"She really has a calming effect on our group," Benet coach Peter Paul said. "We're young, we're learning along the way how to play the game. To have Chrissie back, to be 5-1 at this stage in the game, I'll take it."
Benet spotted Providence an early 16-6 lead, but caught fire in the third quarter. Sweet-shooting sophomore Emily Eshoo scored 8 of her 13 points in a quarter when Benet outscored Providence 23-12. Fellow sophomore Emily Schramek added 10 points. Prasse said people might have short-changed a young Benet team that lost four starters and eight seniors.
"I think we're surprising a lot of people," Prasse said. "I think our shooting is the same -- it might even be better than last year."