Aurora Central, Rosary win big in regional openers
Aurora Central Catholic and Rosary had plenty in common in a pair of semifinal victories Wednesday night at the Class 3A Rosary girls basketball regional.
Both teams jumped out to big leads. They each entered as the favorite and didn't let their underdog opponent get close enough to think about an upset.
The result was a pair of games without much suspense, two well-played games by the local Aurora schools that sets up a showdown between the rivals Friday for a regional championship.
No. 1 seed Aurora Central Catholic opened the night with a 51-35 victory over No. 4 Sandwich, and No. 2 Rosary followed with one of its best shooting nights of the season in a 63-40 win over No. 3 seed Plano.
That creates a meeting between Rosary (11-17) and Aurora Central Catholic (17-10) at 7 p.m. Friday back at Rosary for the regional title.
The Chargers won the first meeting with Rosary by 14 points.
"We're an entirely different team as they are," Rosary coach Jessie Terrell said. "Any time you play for a regional championship, any time you play a rival, you never know what's going to happen. Yes we have to play well but I know we are better than when we played them in the past and I'm expecting Friday to be an exciting game."
Chargers senior guard Gabi Alfaro scored 8 points Wednesday in the win over Sandwich.
"We're just going to out and play our hearts out one last time for me and my seniors," Alfaro said. "It's going to be a good game."
Sandwich (9-18) certainly got a good look at just how tough the Chargers are on the defensive end. Alfaro said the team's goal was to hold Sandwich to 7 points a quarter, and through three quarters they were right on that pace allowing 6, 6 and 9.
By then Aurora Central Catholic led 43-21 and coach Mark Fitzgerald gave his bench plenty of time in the fourth. Jenna Cebulski scored the final basket for the Chargers, the 10th player to score.
"Overall we played a pretty good game," Fitzgerald said. "I think we showed our depth tonight. I think we showed the sophomores are going to be some people to reckon with. I think we showed our senior leadership. You are supposed to go out when you are the No. 1 seed and win like that and we did what we are supposed to do."
After Jordyn Sundberg hit the first two shots for the Chargers, Alex Horton drained a corner 3-pointer to put the Chargers ahead to stay, 7-4, halfway through the first quarter. Sundberg knocked down a jumper just before the first-quarter buzzer for a 17-6 lead.
Alfaro opened the second quarter with a 3 while the Chargers continued to make life miserable for the Sandwich offense.
"We have seen pressure before, we just let it get to us," Sandwich coach Randy Malloy said. "We attacked, but when you are not knocking down outside shots it's kind of tough to get things going. Defensively they did a really good job helping and rotating once we got the ball inside. They were on their toes and moving really well defensively."
Horton led the Chargers with 8 points. Alfaro, Sundberg and Taylor Harazin all scored 8.
Now with the third-most wins in school history, the Chargers only turned the ball over 8 times.
"We have been working really hard on taking care of the ball and the kids are starting to get that," Fitzgerald said. "They really played as a team tonight."
Alfaro, who as a freshman played on the Chargers' state team, also was part of a squad during her sophomore year that suffered a regional championship loss to Nazareth on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"They remember that and realize how much they want to get back to that type of setting," Fitzgerald said. "We are very excited about this opportunity. I'm happy for the kids."
Rosary 63, Plano 40: Points haven't been easy to come from for the Royals this season but you would never have guessed it watching them Wednesday.
Taylor Drozdowski got off to a quick start with 9 points in the first quarter, and her teammates followed suit the rest of the game as the Royals shot over 50 percent from the field, 25 for 47.
"I'm very proud of our kids," Terrell said. "We're getting more higher percentage shots and we're just shooting the ball all around better. Perfect timing."
Plano (11-18) led just once, 2-0, before a 10-0 Rosary run. That wouldn't be the Royals' biggest -- they opened the second half with 14 straight points.
"We wanted to speed it up and push the ball right away," Royals senior point guard Quincy Kellett said. "It was fun. We like playing that way. We always play much better on our home court.
"She (Terrell) just kept telling us if we go down this is our last chance playing together. We got pretty pumped in the locker room and we came out strong. That was our plan the whole time."
Plano's best stretch came in the second quarter after the Royals had opened leads of 19-6 after one quarter and 26-14 midway through the second. By halftime the Reapers were within single digits at 34-25.
Kellett opened the second half with a steal she took in for a layup, then made 2 free throws. Adrienne Winkel and Drozdowski scored, followed by jumpers from Kellett and Winkel before a Drozdowski drive concluded the 14-0 run for a 48-25 lead.
"We thought we had some ideas at halftime that would work," Plano coach John Chernick said. "We just came out and laid an egg that first minute. That set the tone for the whole second half. We had five seniors on the floor and things kind of snowballed on us. Give Rosary a lot of credit."
Drozdowski, getting back to 100 percent after missing a month with an ankle injury, scored a game-high 15 points.
"It's huge for her confidence and (for her to) continue on through the tournament," Terrell said.
Winkel added 13 points, 6 rebounds. Kellett nearly had a unique double-double with 9 points and 9 steals, plus 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
Jenna Hernandez and Lauren Smith both scored 9 points off the bench.
"We are not a high-scoring team but against Plano I thought we could push the pace and score more points," Terrell said. "Against teams that are averaging more than us we like to slow it down."
Shannon Tierney led Plano with 11 points.
"They (Rosary) are great at driving and dishing," Chernick said. "They did a great job exploiting that. They hit their shots. We had some good looks that just didn't go."
-- John Lemon