Joliet Catholic jolts St. Viator
By no stretch of the imagination was St. Viator about to makes excuses.
But playing a third straight game in as many nights against a state-ranked girls basketball team is not exactly the ideal situation.
Class 3A power Joliet Catholic came to the Cahill Gymnasium on Wednesday night and broke a two-game losing streak with a 51-30 triumph over the Lions in the East Suburban Catholic Conference opener.
St. Viator (4-6) lost at Buffalo Grove on Monday and won at Elk Grove on Tuesday.
The Angels (4-2) were without one of the state's top seniors on Wednesday due to a team violation.
But with Florida State recruit Nicole Ekhomu (25 points per game) sidelined, Joliet Catholic found plenty of scoring from elsewhere, and it came early.
Senior Kaitlyn Williams scored 10 of her 17 points in the first quarter as the Angels raced to a 16-4 lead.
"They're an excellent team," said first-year Lions coach Jason Raymond. "I thought we had some good looks in the first half but our energy was a little lower playing out third game in three days.
"I thought we were dragging a little bit in the first half and then when your shots are not dropping, that doesn't make it any easier against a team like (Joliet Catholic)."
The Angels, who also received a game-high 20 points from senior guard Mia Farrell, led 27-12 at half.
"We just want to play team ball," said first-year Joliet Catholic coach Nick Leonard. "Defensively is where we want to make our mark, and I thought we played great team defense (in the fewest points the Angels have given up this season)."
Joliet outscored the Lions 24-18 in the second half.
"I thought the girls fought hard," Raymond said. "We didn't shoot the ball well but we made some good runs."
"It was out first conference game so we came out fired up," said Lions senior Julie Bergstrom, who had a rebound layup in the second quarter. "But we knew they were going to be a tough challenge. We just played our best, right to the final buzzer. That's all we can ask for now."
The Lions' top scorers were sophomore Michaela Mueller (6 points), sophomore Myia Clark (5), junior Jenna Breslin (5) and senior Maggie Leazer (4).
"Jenna has been giving us good minutes off the bench," Raymond said. "She is a very competitive player and tough around the basket. She is a spark coming off the bench.
"Maggie is a battler who does all the right things at the right time. She takes the challenge of facing the opponent's best player, whether it's a big rebounder or a scorer. Maggie is a steady influence for our younger players."
The Lions, who also received scoring from sophomore Olivia Solimene, sophomore Haley Robinson and freshman Elise Horbach on Wednesday, are looking forward to returning to the gym for practice.
"As we move to our next practice, we need to work on playing as a team, especially on defense," Bergstrom said. "That's what wins games."
For now, it's practice.
"We're a younger team," Raymond said. "So that's makes it even tougher to play a stretch like we just had. We haven't practiced in five or six days. It will be nice to have three in row. They are much needed."