In search of its first regional crown in a decade, the Lisle girls basketball team came up short Thursday night, suffering its second consecutive regional-final defeat.
Mt. Assisi (13-17), meanwhile, used a strong fourth quarter to claim the 52-42 victory to give the Eagles two straight regional crowns after the soon-to-be-closing school had not one a single regional title ever before last season.
The Lions clung to a 23-21 lead at the half and took a 31-25 lead midway through the third quarter after Monifah Davis grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a basket. But Lisle followed by turning the ball over a few times, and then the shots stopped falling and Mt. Assisi made them pay.
"It (stinks) because last year's loss in the regional championship still stings and this one will sting for a while," said Lisle senior Sierra Birdsell, who did her best to try and extend her prep playing days by knocking down a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to finish with 16 points. "We were up 6 and it was our turnovers. It was 31-25 and then turnover, turnover, turnover and they're back in the game."
The Eagles, who had lost to Lisle at the Lions Thanksgiving tourney, came up big down the stretch. MaryKate Wetzel, who sat the entire third quarter in foul trouble, scored three quick baskets as Mt. Assisi took a 39-35 lead with six minutes to play. Guard Jess Moriarty, meanwhile, had 14 points and 15 rebounds despite being one of the smaller players on the floor all night.
"I just wanted this so bad. You just go after every loose ball and rebound. I just wanted it," said Moriarty, a junior who will have to find another school to attend her senior year.
First-year Lisle coach Nick Balaban went 19-10, but like his players, the loss to the Eagles gave him an empty feeling.
"We had some aspirations and some goals to win some championships and we fell short in every one of those goals," he said.
"But from a standpoint of the type of individuals we have on this team I couldn't ask for a better group to have my first year here. Even though we didn't get where we wanted to be, I can't not think about the group of kids we had playing for us this year. I really enjoyed the experience and now we've got something to build on."
Birdsell, the team's leader and top scorer, and fellow senior starter Val Melo will be missed, but the rest of the Lions squad returns next season, including Davis, who tallied 16 points and 2 steals, and Kate Twaddle, the team's best defender.