IC Catholic Prep seized control in the second quarter and cruised to an easy 53-34 win against Christ the King Tuesday night in the Class 2A girls basketball sectional semifinal at Chicago Marine Military Academy.
Following a sloppy start for both teams, junior Chiara Gaudio was the catalyst for the Knights (23-6). She scored 10 straight points, including three textbook jumpers, for her team to flip a 10-7 deficit into a 17-12 lead.
"I just tried to contribute as best I could," said Gaudio, who finished with a game-high 14 points. "I was open, so I shot and they just happened to go in."
The Gladiators' Taylor Pate sandwiched a jumper from ICCP between two scores inside to make the score 19-16, but the Gladiators (18-7) never got closer.
Pate, who finished with a team-high 12 points, provided the only consistent offense for Christ the King but was held to two in the second half thanks to the defensive effort of Rory Manion.
"I couldn't really do anything compared to her size," Manion said. "I just had to keep in control and not get frustrated."
After taking a 27-20 lead into the half, ICCP coach Aubree Schuett switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone.
"(The change) seemed to disrupt things," said Schuett, who noted that she didn't know what to exactly to expect offensively from the Gladiators because so much of the offense she scouted came directly from turnovers created from their full-court press.
Schuett also said her team was prepared for the press but that it took some time to adjust to seeing it live for the first time.
"We knew about it and we did what we could to prepare for it. That (pressure is) going to make anyone nervous," Schuett said. "I was surprised they didn't press us from the very beginning."
The Knights had shaky moments, but for the most part were able to handle anything the Gladiators threw at them.
"There were times when we were rushing and turning the ball over, but overall we did really good -- we were prepared," Gaudio said.
The Knights defense was no slouch itself, starting up top with guard Erin Maloney. Her on-ball pressure played a big part in holding the Gladiators to just 14 second half points.
"Erin's a pretty fierce defender," Schuett said. "She's our go-to if we need to lock down."
As the Knights defense tightened up, Manion asserted herself on the other end in the third quarter with 8 of her 13 points to help extend the lead to 40-29.
The fourth quarter turned into a foul-shooting exhibition for the Knights as they slowed the game down. They made 9 of 16 free throws as they forced the Gladiators to foul, when they were unable to create turnovers.
The Knights play again at 7 p.m. Thursday in the sectional final against Willows Academy, which beat F.W. Parker 46-32.