Having seen a few leads slip away this year, a 10-2 Aurora Christian run to start fourth quarter Tuesday could have been the beginning of the end for Rosary.
But first-year Royals coach Jessie Wilcox is proud of the strides her team has made, starting with her seniors, and instead of folding Rosary answered the Eagles' charge.
The Royals closed out their Suburban Christian Conference crossover game by holding Aurora Christian scoreless over the final 4:01 while making 7 of 10 free throws for a 7-0 run and a 49-34 victory.
"Our seniors are stepping up in crucial times," said Wilcox, praising the decision-making of Madison Richmond at point guard. "We really pushed them and motivated them to carry this team throughout the season and they are doing it right now. Whether they are on the court or on the bench they are holding this team together and holding everyone accountable. It honestly makes it easy to coach."
Karly Tate, one of those seniors, led Rosary (12-10) with her second straight 22-point game.
"We are working more as a team than we ever have and I think that's boosting all our confidence knowing our teammates have our back," Tate said. "We're peaking at the right time."
Aurora Christian (14-8) got off to a quick start. A jumper from Kirsten Madsen and a 3-point basket by Alyssa Andersen put the Eagles up 5-0.
Tate brought the Royals back scoring Rosary's first 11 points of the game including a trio of 3-pointers. By that time the Royals were up 11-7 -- they led 16-10 after the first quarter and never trailed again.
"I've had my ups and downs but I'm staying on track and doing what's best for the team," Tate said. "My confidence is really helping me right now."
Richmond opened the second quarter with a 3. Rosary led 29-18 at halftime as Aurora Christian turned the ball over 11 times in the first half and made just 1 of 6 free throws.
"A couple people were out of sorts and they brought the pressure," Eagles coach Jerry Tokars said. "I give them (Rosary) a lot of credit."
The Eagles stayed cold in the third quarter and sophomore Quincy Kellett began heating up for the Royals, scoring 10 of her 13 points in the second half as Rosary extended its lead to 40-24 going to the fourth quarter.
A putback from Hannah Dean started Aurora Christian's rally in the fourth, and after Alex Hultine was fouled shooting a 3-pointer and made 2 free throws the Eagles had sliced that 16-point deficit in half at 42-34.
The Eagles had two chances from point-blank range to make it a 4-point game but missed the first attempt and were called for traveling on the next, and they never scored again.
"When you are trying to mount a comeback you need those," Tokars said.
Tate also led Rosary with 10 rebounds -- the Royals outrebounded the Eagles 33-24 despite 13 from Natasha Brown -- wile Mary Wentworth and Rachel Choice both grabbed 5.
"They are learning, getting confidence, and they are having fun now," Wilcox said. "That always helps in basketball."
At 4-3, the Eagles are still in the thick of their division race with games coming up against the two 5-2 teams ahead of them, St. Francis and Immaculate Conception.
"I give our kids a lot of credit for coming back," Tokars said. "In years past we might have tanked. They do have fight in them."
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