Titans make for winning coaching debut
It was not a good situation. But it provided a great opportunity.
Because Glenbrook South girls basketball coach Scott Nemecek remained home under COVID quarantine for the Titans' rematch against Glenbrook North on Jan. 7, varsity assistant Ariana Mazza-Bensyl made her head coaching debut with a 58-41 home victory, led by Chloe Gonzalez's 20 points and point guard Sydney Rogers with 19.
"I enjoyed being the head coach," Mazza-Bensyl said. "I'm ready for Scott to come back when he's ready, but I definitely had fun doing it and the girls made it easy. They played hard and they did what we were supposed to do out here."
Mazza-Bensyl faced not only Glenbrook North head coach Nick Capalbo in the Central Suburban League South contest, but also Spartans assistant Steve Weissenstein. The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association hall of famer was Glenbrook South's girls coach when Mazza-Bensyl played there.
She called the situation "a little nerve-wracking," but Glenbrook South (10-6, 3-2) eased concerns by making 18 of 22 free throws and outrebounding Glenbrook North 37-28. All five Glenbrook South starters -- Gonzalez, Rogers, Gina Davorija, Megan Flentye and Anna Rosenberger -- grabbed at least 5 rebounds led by the 6-foot-2 Rosenberger's 9 plus 9 points.
"This team has had a little bit of a struggle at the beginning of the season getting big wins, and now we've kind of caught our wind. We won our winter tournament (at Wheaton North) and this is another big win for us," Mazza-Bensyl said.
Glenbrook North (7-5, 1-4), led by Brooke Blumenfeld with 18 points, had played once since Dec. 14 due to COVID cancellations, a Jan. 4 loss to Hersey. Capalbo thought the rust was a problem.
"I think we've got to get better defensively," he said. "We gave up 58 points. You're not going to win many games if you give up that many points. We'll get back after it defensively.
"I think we lost some wind, we're not in the best shape yet, but we'll get back to where we were," he added.
Glenbrook South used offensive spurts to boost its lead quarter by quarter.
After a pair of Rogers free throws at 2:24 of the first quarter, the Northern Illinois-bound Blumenfeld's lane jumper gave the Spartans a 10-9 lead, which would be their last. The senior duo of the 6-1 Blumenfeld and 6-2 Sarah Ryan worked well before foul trouble took its toll.
A microburst of Flentye and Gonzalez free throws and a Rosenberger putback closed the first quarter with Glenbrook South leading 15-10.
Spartans guard Jaden De Guzman's consecutive 3-pointers from the left wing and another by Blumenfeld from the right pulled the Spartans within 25-23 at 3:10 of the second quarter.
"I think when we do like a one-two (passing scheme) and just chuck up a shot, it's not going to work," said Glenbrook North guard Abby Burnham. "But when we pass it around and work through the play, it's always going to work. We get a good shot every time."
Rogers, though, used her quickness to get to the foul line. She made 6 straight free throws to pace Glenbrook North's 31-24 halftime lead. Rogers made 10 of 11 foul shots on the night.
The third quarter had a similar theme. Glenbrook North got within 37-34 as Ryan and Blumenfeld worked the pick and roll. Freshman Alexis Myers, who scored 10 points, set up her defender off the dribble then canned a shot just inside the 3-point arc.
Glenbrook South answered with the last 6 points of the quarter. Gonzalez rolled through the lane and added a free throw, and Rogers swished a left-corner 3 from behind a screen. The Titans led 43-34 entering the fourth quarter.
"I feel like we were more conditioned than them," Rogers said. "Also a few of us, I feel like, are a lot quicker than other people that we play, so that really helped us getting to the basket and then either dishing it off or getting a foul. That helped. I feel like that brought us to our spurts."
Two of Gonzalez's four 3-pointers and Glenbrook North's three-minute scoring drought pushed Glenbrook South to a 49-36 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Bryce Wolf's 2 free throws and a Myers 3 cut the deficit to 51-41 with 4:06 left to play, but Glenbrook South scored the last 7 points to close it out.
"We beat them at their house (49-46 on Nov. 30), they wanted to come here and beat us, no matter how rusty they were or not," Mazza-Bensyl said.
"They were aggressive on defense and we had to kind of match that and play our game and be as aggressive and protect the basketball. They gave us a run for our money. They played good defense, we just hit some shots."