Tsimba Malonga isn't feeling 100 percent just yet, but the Benet senior guard sure looks a lot better lately.
Frustrated all season by nagging knee pain, the University of Denver recruit showed the ability to drive to the basket, shoot her dangerous midrange jumper and play well defensively in the Redwings' 70-48 victory against visiting Carmel on Saturday afternoon.
"She's gone down once lately where her knee, she hyperextended it again," Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. "But no, generally I think she's feeling more comfortable with it. I don't think she was trusting it when she first came back, maybe guarding it a little bit. She seems less guarded in her movement now."
Malonga missed a few weeks in the middle of the season to rest the knee.
"I'm getting there," added Malonga, who scored 12 points on 6-of-7 shooting in limited playing time. "I'm not at my full capability. I'm not as explosive as I was before, but I'm slowly getting there. Slowly but surely. But hopefully by the time the playoffs hit; I know the playoffs are coming around the corner. I mean, I'm in good enough shape to play in the playoffs, but I'm not where I need to be right now."
The victory completed an undefeated run through the East Suburban Catholic Conference schedule for the Redwings (26-4, 7-0).
"It's always a goal and it's one, honestly, we haven't achieved very often," said Kilbride, who emptied his bench in the third quarter, with 12 of the 14 Redwings scoring. "We won two state championships in the last few years and only won one conference championship during that period. I think that one prior to that had been 1998 or something, so it's been a long time coming. To win an outright championship in the East Suburban Catholic this year, there are some very good teams in our league. So it's a nice accomplishment for a young team."
Carmel (13-15, 3-4) started well, twice taking the lead before Benet took over late in the first quarter. The Redwings led 17-10 after one period, 35-19 at halftime.
"We changed defenses a little bit, got a couple of turnovers," Corsairs coach Ben Berg said. "But they're tough. I mean, they're tough to defend. They can score inside. They can score outside. And it's not really just one girl. They've got multiple girls who can score, so they just got it going. Then late first quarter, second quarter, we turned the ball over a little bit. They got into their transition game and got some easy baskets. That's kind of what stretched the lead out."
Benet sophomore forward Brooke Schramek led both teams with 18 points, and junior point guard Clara Prasse added 9 for the Redwings.
Sophomore guard Ranya Jamison scored 10 to lead the Corsairs. She also had 2 steals.
She's been playing real well of late," Berg said of Jamison. "She had a good game against Marian Central Woodstock on Wednesday. Had 15 against them. She's playing real well right now. And what I liked as much as anything, late in the fourth quarter she's diving on the floor for loose balls, things like that. We can be successful against most teams doing that."