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Bartlett's girls basketball team did what young teams tend to do Friday afternoon and in the process they almost made their coach wait another day to reach a career milestone.
The Hawks jumped out to a 16-point halftime lead then had to hang on the end to beat Oswego East, 52-49, at the Naperville Central/Benet Tip-Off Tournament in Naperville.
The victory gave Bartlett coach Denise Sarna her 300th career win, 280 of them coming as the only head coach the Bartlett program has had since the program began 16 years ago.
"I've been on the team three years and it's so awesome for her," said Hawks' senior Elizabeth Arco. "I'm so proud of her. She definitely deserves it."
The Hawks (2-2) made themselves work for the win, though.
Leading 28-12 at halftime, Bartlett appeared to be on its way to an easy win. The Hawks had helped create 14 Oswego East turnovers in the first 16 minutes and they had held the Wolves (0-4) to just 2 points on 1 of 11 shooting in the second quarter.
On the offensive end, Bartlett missed several layups but it had the inside game going as Arco and sophomore Kelly Harris combined for 18 of the Hawks' 28 points in the first half. Time and again, junior guard Lauren Janczak found one of Bartlett's 6-footers alone in the paint. Janczak had 5 assists in the first half and seven for the game.
"We did a nice job with our interior game with Liz and Kelly and Lauren is coming around as a good leader," Sarna said. "She's got good court sense and she sees the floor well."
But as quickly as Bartlett built a decent lead, it dissipated. The Wolves found their shooting touch and Bartlett, which had just 7 turnovers in the first half, coughed it up that many times in the third quarter alone as the Wolves pulled to within 39-33 when senior Venita Parsons hit a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer.
"The whole season so far we've had a bad quarter here and there," Sarna said. "We started out OK but then we came out in the third quarter and didn't have the intensity we needed. We had multiple turnovers to start the quarter and when you're trying to maintain and build on a lead you can't turn the ball over like that."
After Arco scored to open the fourth quarter and make it a 41-33 game, the Wolves went on an 8-0 run to close to within 41-40 on a basket from Parsons with 4:28 left in the game. But Harris made a layup 10 seconds later to start a 7-0 Hawk run that stretched the lead to 48-40 after a Kaitlin Brohan basket with 2:22 left.
The Wolves continued to claw away, though, and came within 3 points of the lead twice down the stretch but Arco and Janczak each made 2 free throws to seal the win. Bartlett finished the game 22 of 32 from the free-throw line.
"Now we know we can finish close games," said Arco, who had 17 points and 9 rebounds. "We're just trying to get better."
Harris added 16 points and 5 rebounds for the Hawks, who were 15 of 35 shooting for the day and outrebounded the Wolves 35-31. Nia Flowers led Oswego East with 18 points and Parsons added 12.
After the game, Sarna was presented the game ball by longtime Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum, who has over 500 career wins himself.
"You start thinking and reflecting and I was thinking today about all the coaches I played for and all the coaches I've worked with," Sarna said. "I see a little bit in each of them that's so special. And I have such great support from my family. My brother still follows every game from London.
"I've been lucky to have some teams who have won a lot of games. You just hope that when players leave your program they appreciate what it means to be a varsity athlete."