Maine East starts fast, runs past Lakes
Maine East's girls basketball team started out its season and own Thanksgiving tourney with a flourish on Tuesday night in Park Ridge.
The Blue Demons exploded to an 11-0 lead less than four minutes into its opener with Lakes and never looked back in a 65-39 victory.
"It was really important to have a great start to the season because it really sets the tone for what we expect from our team in the future," said Emina Hanic, Maine East's senior center whose game-high 23 points gave her 814 in her career. "We are going as hard as we can for our final season together."
Maine East coach Nicole Rinaldi would love to see Hanic, one of four returning starters, become the program's third player to reach 1,000 points. Rinaldi's assistant coach Amanda Mistretta (1,346) is No. 2 all-time behind Caya Apostolou.
"It's really important to me," Hanic said of reaching 1,000 points. "I'm almost there. I think it sort of leaves a legacy and I think it's just one of many accomplishments here and it really means a lot to me."
Right behind Hanic in the scoring column on Tuesday was senior guard Mahima Chokshi (21 points), who pushed her career total to 718.
Sophomore Mariah Scott chipped in 10 points while junior Bella Cabrales had 6 and senior Michelle Piro 5.
"This win was huge to build momentum for the rest of the season," said Rinaldi, a former standout for Fremd High School, now in her third year as the Blue Demons coach. "I feel this win really gave them that spark and showed them the confidence they need to be successful. Our captains (Hanic and Chokshi) did a great job leading.
"About half our points came from transition layups. So we ran the ball well. Our girls are in great shape and that's what we want to do. We want to push the ball and get those easy buckets."
The big 11-0 start saw four different Blue Demons get on the scoreboard.
Hanic had a pair of putbacks while Piro, Scott (1 free throw) and Chokshi each added layups.
Scott capped the first-quarter scoring by hitting a 17-footer just before the buzzer to give the hosts a 23-9 advantage.
Maine East stretched the lead 45-21 at half, outscoring the Eagles 27-12 in the second period.
Piro and Chokshi each had 3-pointers while Hanic had 8 more points from close range. Scott again hit a buzzer-beating shot, this time a 14-footer from the left lane for the 24-point cushion.
The Blue Demons kept the pressure on in the second half, and received back-to-back buckets off the bench from Cabrales, which made it 60-32 late in the third quarter.
Junior guard Kendall Phelan led Lakes with 13 points, followed by Amanda Dietz (6) and Kailey Gara (5).
"We are making a cultural change in our program with a run-and-gun style," said Eagles coach Brian Phelan. "They jumped out to the 11-0 lead and that made it tougher. Everyone is just searching for an identity and one of our goals was to get everyone into the game. We're using this tournament to get everyone acclimated so we can compete for a conference and regional title. It was a good test for us. We are going to see tough opponents every game."
"We are looking at the bigger picture and wanted to make sure to get everyone minutes for this game."