Leyden turns the tables on Wheeling
Now this was the way Leyden's girls basketball team wanted to start the 2020 part of its schedule.
The Eagles did not allow an opponent the double bonus in either half for the first time all season.
And their bonus for that feat was a 52-38 nonconference triumph over visiting Wheeling, a team the Eagles lost to 52-42 less than two weeks ago at the Blenner Holiday Classic at St. Viator.
So what enabled the Eagles (4-9) to turn the tables on the Wildcats (4-14)?
"We had only five fouls the whole game," said Leyden senior co-captain Evelyn Abundes, who tied her career high with 19 points. "That's what really hurt us last time. Their point guard (Chloe Drozdz) had 18 free throws last time so that was a big difference."
Abundes is starting to make a big difference for the Eagles.
"Evelyn had a phenomenal season as a junior," said Eagles coach Stephanie Kuzmanic, one of Wheeling's all-time top players who went on to be an All-American at Carthage College.
"It has taken her a little longer to get going this season because teams know who she is now and have a better scouting report on her. This was probably her best game of the season."
Abundes wasted little time jump-starting the Eagles' offense as she hit a 3-pointer to give her team 3-0 lead.
A driving bank shot by Becky Colmenares (4 assists), two free throws by Abundes, a free throw by Colmenares and 6-foot bank shot by Abundes gave the hosts a 10-0 lead with 2:40 left in the first period.
Emily Collier hit a 10-foot turnaround bank shot with 25 seconds left to send the hosts into intermission leading 26-13.
The Wildcats got the lead down to 32-29 when Sophia Stanke hit a 3-pointer with 7:25 left in the game but that's as close as they would get.
Abundes' rebound layup sparked a 7-0 run that made it 39-29 with 2:10 left.
Colmenares finished with 16 points while teammate Jocelyn Muenster added 6 and LaNia Harris four.
"It was a good way to start the year," added Abundes, also a soccer player. "This gives us more energy to keep things going and win more game this month. We just played as a team and we were all talking and keeping our energy up the whole game."
Drozdz and Stanke led Wheeling with 10 points apiece while Naomi Mettelus chipped in 10 with a pair of 3-pointers. Nikki Niznik and Ty-Ana Howard added 4 points each.
"Credit Leyden," said Wheeling coach Matt Weber. "They worked their butts off and they were better prepared."
Kuzmanic said it was one of the Eagles' top performances of the season.
"This was huge for us," she said. "We made a lot of adjustments from last time we played them and we really played as a team. We had a great defensive effort and were really prepared this time. Our main focus was to not foul. We really worked hard on moving our feet and not our hands so we're really happy about that."
And Kuzmanic is always happy to play her alma mater.
"Lots of memories," she said. "Every time the announcer says 'ball to the Wildcats' I still think it's for my team. I feel like I'm back playing for them. Credit Wheeling. I learned a lot from those guys who were sitting on the other bench. Thi was such a huge win for our girls. They've been working so hard. They are relentless. They don't give up."