Lisle takes two-game league lead
Lisle girls basketball player Cassidy Allen knew she could shoot better from the outside than during Monday's first half.
"I wasn't really discouraged," Allen said. "Sometimes I get mad in the game because it's physical and it just makes me play tougher."
With the outright lead of the new Illinois Central Eight Conference at stake, Allen and the Lions found another level of performance.
Allen's back-to-back 3-pointers in the third quarter were crucial to the rally that carried the Lions past Peotone 51-42 in Lisle.
After 4 points on free throws in the first half, Allen finished with a personal-high 21 points for the Lions (18-3, 8-0). Her 3s were among 5 field goals after she missed her first 7 shots.
"It was very exciting, just happy that I started making my shots," Allen said. "We just have a lot of good chemistry going. Our team, when we get down, we don't give up. We pull each other back up and we just go on a run."
Junior Emma Rossin had 15 points on five 3s and junior Jenna Johnston had 10 points. Junior Abby Casmer and Johnston each had 7 rebounds and junior Tara Kane 7 assists.
By sweeping the season series, Lisle owns a two-game lead over the Blue Devils (15-5, 6-2) but still must play the other six league schools a second time. Other than third-place Reed-Custer, the other ICEC teams each have at least four league losses.
"Not that we finally realized our potential, but we pushed ourselves even harder than what we knew our potential was, which played a key part in this game," Casmer said.
"Since it was our second time playing them and they knew a lot about us and we knew a lot more about them, it kind of made the game more tough-fought. It was definitely a battle for sure, for both sides."
Lisle trailed 31-25 with 4:13 left in the third quarter but regained the lead 33-31 on Allen's second 3. A buzzer-beating 3 by Rossin for a 36-33 lead entering the fourth quarter proved to be an emotional springboard.
Rossin nailed another 3 on the Lions' first possession, and baskets by Kane and Allen increased the lead to 43-36. Allen answered a Peotone 3 with a driving three-point play for a 48-42 lead with 1:57 to go and then added three more free throws.
"Our kids did a tremendous job of sticking to the game plan and playing hard and playing through it," Balaban said. "It was a physical game. Since the calendar turned, Cassidy Allen's just been phenomenal for us (offensively)."
Peotone point guard Courtney Burks and forward Lauren Hamann each had 13 points.
The result was quite different from Lisle's deceptively easy 60-35 road victory over Peotone on Dec. 2. The Lions actually fell behind 11-2 but then scored the last six points of the first quarter to start a 49-19 scoring run over the next two quarters.
"I told our players, that's not going to happen (Monday). This is going to be a battle," Balaban said.
Balaban said one key factor Monday was the 5-foot-7 Casmer's outstanding defense on 5-10 forward Mae Graffeo, which limited her to 6 points, roughly 10 below her average.
"That speaks volumes about how she accepted and took pride in that assignment and wanted to show what she could do defensively," Balaban said.
After their third-quarter deficit the Lions especially focused on stopping Burks and Graffeo. Burks had 5 second-half points with a fourth-quarter 3. Hamman had 9 second-half points with a fourth-quarter 3.
Casmer repeatedly has played above her height even with a recent ankle injury.
"That's kind of my role on the team to take on," Casmer said. "Our team is relatively small and we have more shooters. I usually help out with the bigs. I like it because it helps me give the ball out to our shooters."
Back-to-back Johnston baskets gave the Lions a 20-9 lead in the second quarter but they needed a late Johnston putback to regain the lead 22-21 for halftime.