Playing its last home game, Christian Liberty's girls basketball team faced it toughest test of the regular season against visiting Lake Forest Academy.
"I told the girls this is the toughest game we'll see before regionals," said Chargers coach Steve Rowland. "We just wanted to see how we matched up."
Unfortunately for the Chargers, they had to match up for nearly 11 minutes without junior Shelbi Hernandez, due to foul trouble.
That allowed the visiting Caxys to make a big 26-7 run to close the first half en route to a 51-27 nonconference victory.
Despite the limited playing time, Hernandez led CLA (15-9) with 11 points and recorded another double-double with 14 rebounds.
"This showed us how we have to react to a good team," said the 5-foot-11 center. "We stood our ground. We need to work on pushing the ball faster on offense.
"They were aggressive and played defense well. It was a hard game. They are one of the best teams I've seen."
The Caxys (13-8), who have played more than a handful of Class 4A schools including Lake County power Vernon Hills, received a game-high 18 points from senior guard Lauren Clamage.
She has committed to Division III Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. Clamage is the school's first 1,000-point scorer in at least 14 years.
Junior forward Dija Diouf, who is getting D-I attention according to eight-year coach Chris Tennyson, chipped in 8 points as the Caxys used their transition game and defense to pull away to a 35-13 lead the intermission.
With Hernandez back on the floor for the final 16 minutes, the Chargers were outscored by only by 2 points.
Due to illness, Rowland had only one reserve on his bench.
"That's one reason we pushed the tempo," said Tennyson. "And when they had (Hernandez) in foul trouble, we said we had to keep pushing it up the floor on offense."
Henandez was called for her third foul with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
"The first couple of minutes we played well but when Shelbi got in foul trouble, then we don't have a post player and we are in trouble," Rowland said. "She was out for almost a quarter and a half so that's pretty hard for us to overcome.
"In our last five games, Shebli had three or four double-doubles. She is playing her best basketball and she's really improving."
Junior guard Megan Sullivan added 8 points, including a 3-pointer for the Chargers while Jess Moriarty and Jenn West had 4 points apiece. Teammate Vivian Barclay collected 3 steals.
"I thought we played well in spurts," Rowland added. "But you can't give a quality team like them a chance to run like we did in the second quarter.
"We just didn't play defense. But we did much better in the third and fourth quarters with Shelbi back."
The Caxys went ahead 9-7 but a 17-foot baseline bucket form Moriarty and short jumper from the baseline by Hernandez made it 9-7 before Lake Forest made its winning move.
"We played them last year and knew they would be scrappy," Tennyson said. "It took us a while to warm up but I thought our defense was tremendous in the second quarter."
Rowland and the Chargers used the game to warm up for the regional next week.
"We didn't quit in the third and fourth quarters," the coach said." So I'm really proud of the girls. They did a lot of good things."