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Less than 65 seconds into Friday's West Suburban Conference Gold game, Leyden's girls basketball team found itself trailing 8-0 visiting Morton.
"That did make things tough," said Eagles senior guard Victoria Galizia, who will play for North Central College next season. "Right away, the momentum went into Morton's hands."
The Mustangs increased the lead to 10-0 with 5:37 left in the first quarter and never looked back while recording a 50-34 triumph.
When the Eagles looked back, they stressed they must improve on their starts.
"It's been a problem," said Galizia, who led Leyden with 10 points and 4 assists. "We will start out slow, then pick things up."
The Eagles did step up and got to within 12-7 on a driving layup by Alondra Chavarria. The sophomore guard also had a steal and layup which cut the gap to 14-9 after one period.
The Eagles (4-12, 1-5) kept Morton's lead under double digits for most of the second and third quarters.
But the Mustangs (9-8, 3-4) were able to get ahead by as many as 19 in the final period.
"We've got to make sure we keep the momentum once we get it," Galizia added. "Sometimes we let it slip away, and then everything changes."
There was a change at the top in the Leyden program this season as former Schaumburg High School and Carthage College basketball-volleyball standout Drewann Pancratz took over the program.
"She (Pancratz) stresses that we always give 100 percent," Galizia said.
That tangible was the first thing Morton second-year coach Craig Madzinski spotted in the Eagles.
"We were like them last year," he said. "They're hungry and play with a lot of heart. Those kids just weren't going to quit. They were playing their butts off. They'll get it going."
"But we have to wake up. I could see coming off the bus we weren't ready. The kids were yawning and just didn't seem ready."
Senior Justyna Chojnowski was ready to hit the boards for Leyden.
The 5-foot-10 senior forward grabbed a rebound and hit a bank shot (made it 10-3 with 4:02 left in first quarter) to get the Eagles' offense rolling in the first quarter.
Chojnowski finished with 12 rebounds.
"I thought J.C. did a good job on the boards," Pancratz said. "She always goes hard to the boards."
Senior Kathy Wojtulewicz added 7 points and 6 rebounds for the hosts while Chavarria helped ignite the defense with 7 steals.
"From the beginning of the season to now, you can see we have improved," Pancratz said. "But there is definitely more room for improvement and that's the exciting part.
"The girls play hard. We just have to capitalize on the little things that can make a difference in games."
Junior Ruth Murillo (13 points) was the only Morton player in double figures.
Junior Alyssa Aiello added 4 points for Leyden while Stephanie Muralles, Chojnowski and Ashlee Wiggins each had a bucket.
"I see improvement," said Galizia who had a career-high 20 points in the Eagles earlier WSC Gold win over Addison Trail. "We are playing harder and more focused. We just have to pay more attention to the little things like not making turnovers and getting steals."