St. Viator clams 3A regional crown
Once it got started on the right track, the St. Viator express kept rolling along.
The Lions' girls basketball team, which cruised past Harvard on Wednesday, got off to a slow start but ended up speeding past Richmond-Burton 55-38 Thursday in the Class 3A regional final in Arlington Heights.
With the win St. Viator (23-8) captured its fourth consecutive regional title. The Lions, who are the top seed in the Carmel sectional, will meet the winner of Friday's game between fourth-seeded Johnsburg and sixth-seeded Resurrection on Monday.
St. Viator coach Jason Raymond said that his program's four consecutive regional titles are a culmination of efforts.
"This is a credit to all the players," Raymond said. "This is a different team than we have had the last few years. It is great that they have put themselves in a position to win a regional. It is great for the whole program."
St. Viator found itself in a hole early to Richmond-Burton (13-15). The Rockets scored the first 7 points and were frustrating the Lions with their 1-3-1 defense.
The Lions began to solve the defense as Nora Ahram and Emma Morrisey each knocked down a 3-pointer and St. Viator finally found itself out of the gate.
Richmond-Burton converted a layup with 2:09 left in the first quarter to go up 11-8. But it would be the last field goal the Rockets would convert until 4:42 was remaining in the third quarter.
"I thought our energy, as the game went on, was good on the defensive end," said Raymond, whose team forced 20 turnovers. "We harp on our defense. Our offense comes from our defense. We are a pressure team and we want to up-tempo the game."
With their defense grounding the Rockets, the Lions went to work on the offensive end. They ran off the next 7 points on their way to an 18-6 run to push the lead to 26-17.
The Lions led 42-32 when they broke the game open. Ahram, who led all scorers with 16 points, poured in the next 7 for the Lions as they opened up a 49-32 bulge.
"We came out to a slow start," said Ahram, who had three 3-pointers. "Our defense stepped up and brought the energy. We like to play fast paced."
Morrisey had 12 points for the Lions, also converting three 3-pointers. Joy Bergstrom chipped in 11 points while Bridget DeZellar and Natalie Krause each had 5 points.
Elise Horbach, who is a senior said she never expected to be on four regional championship teams.
"It is very exciting," Horbach said. "I didn't know what to expect. It is a great accomplishment."
Horbach and her teammates will now be in search of the school's first sectional title next week.
"We lost in the title game last year," Horbach said. "We are looking to redeem ourselves this year."