Ramblers bounce back from loss to earn 3rd in GCAC tourney
Being named a team captain comes with responsibilities.
After taking just its third loss of the season Feb. 4 against Mother McAuley at the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Tournament, to ensure a second straight lull didn't occur Loyola co-captain Morgan Van Horn called a players-only meeting before the third-place game against Trinity.
It didn't. Loyola forced 28 turnovers and beat the Blazers 55-32 in Wilmette to capture third place.
"We actually met earlier in the day to kind of regroup as a team and talk about what we didn't do on the floor," Van Horn said of the Ramblers' loss to McAuley.
"It wasn't what we wanted -- it wasn't the outcome we were expecting, but I think looking into this third-place game we were acting like it was the first- and second-place game, like we just wanted to go out with a win in the last GCAC Tournament that the seniors could play in," the senior guard said.
"She wrote a letter for us, and it was kind of just to help us regroup, get our heads in the right space," said senior co-captain Angelina Giordano who, with Van Horn, was announced on Saturday as a GCAC all-conference selection. "We know we're going to have bad days, so we just need to come out of that and learn from all our mistakes yesterday so we can put it all on the floor tonight."
Ranked No. 3 in Class 4A last week by The Associated Press, on Friday Loyola (26-3) failed to hit a 3-pointer and went 8-for-21 from the free-throw line in its 36-31 loss to Mother McAuley.
Against Trinity (13-11), the Ramblers hit four 3s, 2 by Van Horn, and made 20 of 25 free throws. Giordano went 7 of 8 from the line and senior guard Nora Stanton made all 5 of her attempts.
"Every time you step up to the free-throw line, you just have to be positive and know it's going in," Giordano said. "But since we missed a lot (Friday) we were kind of stressed out about that, and had a lot more pressure on us than we should have had. So today we knew just to regroup and get to the line and make our free throws like we usually do."
The importance of free throws against Trinity was seen in the first quarter. Although Trinity turned the ball over 10 times -- some were forced, some unforced -- Loyola made 3 of 6 from the stripe and led just 13-9 as the Blazers' Maeve Lundt hit a late 3 and Lauren Miller blocked 2 shots and grabbed 4 rebounds.
Helped by 13-of-15 free throw shooting, the Rambler lead built to 29-17 at halftime and 46-24 after three quarters.
Meanwhile, the defense didn't relent. Loyola played man-to-man defense for all but the last half of the fourth quarter when coach Jeremy Schoenecker went to his bench, and to a zone. The Ramblers often trapped a Trinity guard once she got past half-court, which caused problems for the Blazers.
"Defensively they had us on the ropes, and we've got to be able to adjust to pressure as we head into the state playoffs. So I thought this was good for us to see how we need to prepare moving forward," said Trinity coach Kim Coleman.
"I thought our energy level was awesome last night, so I wasn't sure what it was going to be this afternoon. We challenged them again. We've got three or four days off before our next game (the senior night finale Wednesday against Taft), so let's really get after it once again, and they did," Schoenecker said.
"We're a small team, so we have to play quick like that, but it's fun to coach it. It's something that we've never really done in my history of 14 years here, but these guys love playing that style of basketball, and we challenged them again today to sort of play that tempo again."
Giordano led all scorers with 18 points plus 4 steals, followed by sophomore guard Paige Engels with 12 points. Van Horn scored 9 points and Stanton 7. Miller scored 10 points with 10 rebounds for Trinity.
"Today we walked out of here with our heads really high and confident going into the state tournament," Van Horn said.
For No. 1 seed Loyola, that starts Feb. 14 at the Class 4A Maine East regional against No. 16 Taft.
Unlike the GCAC Tournament, there are no second chances in that one.
"That's what we talked about last night also, that we don't want to have this feeling down the stretch when we know we could have made it further. It's good to have that feeling and just learn from everything," Giordano said.