Buffalo Grove girls basketball coach Steve Kolodziej wasn't too happy with his team's start in Monday's nonconference game against visiting St. Viator.
But he had no complaints about the end.
That's when the Bison, who came into the game shooting 58 percent from the free throw line, made 10-of-10 in the final 3:37 to put away a 45-38 triumph and improve to 5-4 overall.
Buffalo Grove wasn't so bad from the line prior to the final minutes, either.
They didn't miss all night, going 15-of-15.
Leading the way was junior Sammy Stejskal, who made 7-of-7 free throws along with 4 field goals for a career-high 15 points.
"I like to drive to the basket a lot," said Stejskal, who scored all of her team's points in the first eight minutes when the Bison found themselves down 10-7 after one period.
Stejskal's drives allowed her to get to the lane, and it was her 4 straight free throws that gave BG a 41-36 lead with 39 seconds left in the game.
"She played huge," Kolodziej said. "She is a kid who has really bought into everything we try to do offensively and defensively, and does all those things well. Once she gets more consistency in her jump shot, she will be tough to guard."
Junior Jessica Hohlweg was tough for BG to guard in the first half when she scored all 5 of her field goals and finished with 12 points.
"Jessica came out energized and ready to go," said Lions coach Christina Jost, who came back to her alma mater for the first time in 10 years when she was an assistant coach at Hersey.
"She didn't feel she had her best game on Saturday (in a loss at Conant) so I was happy to see her come back and play like this."
The Lions (5-3) were also effective at the free throw line, converting 8-of-9, led by junior Susie Moynihan's 6-of-6 which helped get her to 11 points.
Sophomore Maggie Leazer chipped in 7 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer which gave the Lions a 34-28 lead with 5:26 left.
"Maggie had a nice game," Jost said. "She came out on fire and didn't stop. She kept looking for the basket. I'm proud of her. It was a big game for her. I think she is coming into her own."
Sophomore Maddie Welter, who scored 9 of her 12 points in the second half, answered Leazer with a 3-pointer of her own to cut the lead in half before Stejskal struck with a 15-footer that got BG to within 34-33 with 3:42 left.
Moments later, Welter drove to the basket off a fastbreak for a 3-point play that gave BG the lead for good at 35-34 with 3:42 left.
BG's next 10 points came at the free throw line, with 4 from Stejskal, and 2 apiece from junior Maddy Callahan (7 points), Welter and senior Courtney Meyer.
"That was crazy (15-of-15 free throws)," said Bison senior guard Kim Herzog (team-high 5 assists) who scored a layup in the second quarter off a nifty give-and-go with junior Brianna Kolbus (4 steals) on the fastbreak.
"We started out slow but we definitely got the momentum going and put it away at the end. We needed this to boost our confidence so we can improve in conference."
The Bison rebounded well, too, led by Callahan with 6. Sophomore Natalie Dimitrova, Welter, Meyer and junior Teagan Hutchings each had 4.
"Give credit to Buffalo Grove," Jost said. "I thought we did a good job holding (Maddie Welter's) production down. But we didn't take care of the ball in key stretches and they made they free throws."
Both team had standout guards on the bench with injuries.
Jost is hoping all-area senior Erin Fabbri can return from a broken ankle by the end of January if all goes well.
"Our fingers are crossed," she said "She's obviously rarin' to go. If any kid can make a comeback like that, it's Erin Fabbri."
Coming back to Buffalo Grove brought back memories for Jost, who was an all-area guard for Hall of Fame coach Tom Dineen.
"It was good to be back in the gym," said Jost, who also played for Virginia Wesleyan. "I have a lot of memories here from my playing days."
The Lions played much better than on Saturday.
"We had a better effort," Jost said. "We just didn't come out and play that well (against Conant)."
Buffalo Grove, meanwhile, played very well Saturday in a 67-43 win at Lake Forest.
"Honestly, we came out flat this game," Kolodziej said. "I don't know if we came in not respecting our opponent, but I explained to the girls that with our schedule we can't take anyone lightly."
They sure didn't take their free throw shooting lightly.
The team percentage shot up from 58 to 63 percent in one game.
And Stejskal sure played her part.
"She's a high-energy player," Kolodziej said. "She does all the things any coach would love."
Kolodziej loved his team's stretch run.
"I wasn't happy with our start," he said. "But I am proud of the way we finished."
The coach hopes to finish the year with Julie Jambrone on the floor. The junior guard, a two-year starter who had 12 double-digits coring games last season, has yet to play due to a broken foot suffered in the preseason.
"We are hoping she can be back for the Dundee-Crown tournament," Kolodziej said, referring to the 16-team tourney in Carpentersville which runs from Dec. 26-30.
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