West Aurora's hopes of reaching the semifinals of the Bill Neibch Holiday Girls Basketball Tournament hit a roadblock in the form of Lyons Township Thursday night.
The fourth-seeded Blackhawks (10-2) attempted 18 more shots from the field than the fifth-seeded Lions (7-4) and committed 3 fewer turnovers but still left the gym on the short end of a 56-47 quarterfinal decision at Wheaton North.
"We just couldn't get anything down low," said Blackhawks coach Connie Siljendahl, whose team shot just 31 percent from the field (19-of-61). "We couldn't get anything to go for our post players."
Siljendahl admitted that part of the problem was trying to crack the Lions' stubborn 2-3 zone defense.
"We couldn't dribble and penetrate through their zone," said Siljendahl. "Their zone is great. We couldn't get through there to get the ball zipped to the other side. We didn't move the ball well enough or quick enough for what we wanted to do (offensively)."
After falling behind 39-30 following a 3-pointer from Lyons junior guard Vicki Swift (game-high 24 points), the Blackhawks answered with 6 straight points to finish the third quarter -- punctuated by Abriya Zeitz's buzzer-beating putback that made it 39-36.
However, Lyons regained the momentum thanks in part to a pair of reserves.
First, Megan Hickey canned a 3-pointer from the corner -- her first points of the game -- on the Lions' opening possession of the fourth quarter to make it 42-36.
Then, 6-1 sophomore center Emily Pender (6 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocked shots) grabbed an offensive rebound and scored from point-blank range to extend the Lions' lead to 44-36.
"We were putting so much pressure on some of their other players," said Siljendahl. "We kind of stopped some of their better players and there were players that we really didn't expect much from that hurt us. That's the way it should be -- that's team basketball."
Lyons took its biggest lead of the game at 51-41 with 1:21 remaining but the Blackhawks didn't go away quietly.
Junior guard Alexis Wiggins connected on an NBA-range 3-pointer from beyond the top of the key to make it 51-44 with 1:13 left.
Wiggins nailed another 3-pointer to pull the Blackhawks within 53-47 with 56 seconds remaining.
"I was feeling at the end that my team needed me and we really needed 3s," said the 5-2 Wiggins, who was the Blackhawks' lone player in double figures with 13 points. "I've been practicing from way beyond the arc for when we have times like that."
Zeitz added 8 points and 7 rebounds, sophomore Ashley Williams had 7 points, and Erin Jacobsen, Taylor Jacobsen and Elizabeth Skaggs each chipped in with 5 points as the Blackhawks had their 7-game winning streak snapped.
"We just need to be more focused," said Wiggins. "We don't have a winning streak anymore. We've got to start another one tomorrow."
"We'll bounce back," said Siljendahl. "They'll come back and play well the next game. They don't like this feeling. They're pretty upset with themselves right now."