Rufus helps York score comeback win against Willowbrook

  • York's Amaya Rufus (left) and Willowbrook's Calli Kenny battle for possession during a game at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday.

    York's Amaya Rufus (left) and Willowbrook's Calli Kenny battle for possession during a game at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • Willowbrook's Sophie Sullivan dribbles the ball down court during a game at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

    Willowbrook's Sophie Sullivan dribbles the ball down court during a game at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • Willowbrook's Taris Thornton gets the ball to the basket during a game at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

    Willowbrook's Taris Thornton gets the ball to the basket during a game at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • Mariann Blass of York puts up a shot during a game against Willowbrook at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

    Mariann Blass of York puts up a shot during a game against Willowbrook at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • York's Amaya Rufus (15) dribbles past Willowbrook's Sophie Sullivan during a game at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

    York's Amaya Rufus (15) dribbles past Willowbrook's Sophie Sullivan during a game at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

  • York's Kaitlyn Kjome (23) dribbles the ball during a game against Willowbrook at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021.

    York's Kaitlyn Kjome (23) dribbles the ball during a game against Willowbrook at York Community High School in Elmhurst on Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. Sandy Bressner/sbressner@shawmedia.com

 
 
Updated 2/12/2021 10:48 PM

Sophie Sullivan delivered a smashing debut in her first game playing for Willowbrook on Friday night.

York sophomore guard Mariann Blass nearly matched Sullivan's production in her varsity debut.

 

But it was York senior guard Amaya Rufus who stole the spotlight from the two dueling point guards. After not scoring a point for the first 31-plus minutes, mainly because of early foul trouble, Rufus scored the game-winning points on a hard drive to the basket and subsequent free throw to lift York to a 51-50 victory over neighbor Willowbrook.

Coming out of a timeout, Rufus drove hard to her right, laying the ball off the glass over two defenders and crashing to the floor with 12.8 seconds left for the decisive points.

Rufus, an Indiana University South Bend recruit, picked a good time to score her first basket after missing her first 3 shots. Blass led the Dukes (1-0) with 16 points, including hitting two 3-pointers.

"It was tough, and I was feeling the rut after getting two fouls early and couldn't really do anything," Rufus said. "We ran a play for Mariann in the corner because she was hitting them, but I saw the open lane and took it.

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"I kind of threw it up and didn't even know it went in. It's really important to get a win against a really good team."

Sullivan and senior forward Taris Thornton, who scored 10 points, provided a spark for the Warriors after transferring from Montini. Sullivan had a game to remember, hitting six 3s -- most of them via a no-dribble, standstill variety -- for a game-high 25 points to go with six rebounds and 3 steals.

"Sophie had a great night shooting, and she shoots like that if you give her space," Willowbrook coach Terry Harrell said. "Our problem was we looked like we had just eight practices."

Sullivan said the Warriors can learn from the emotional and close loss, though she's yet to attend a class inside her new school with Willowbrook in remote learning.

"It was really fun, and I'm excited to be with these girls," Sullivan said.

The back-and-forth game led to wild momentum swings, with the Dukes slowly slicing a 7-point deficit behind a key 3-pointer from Lizzie Baldridge at the third-quarter buzzer.

York coach Brandon Collings said he was happy with his team's comeback effort against an experienced and talented Willowbrook team, which has at least three college-bound players.

"It's a special game for me because I know how talented they are and we are," Collings said. "Amaya made a really big shot. Mariann really played well. She's improved so much from last year. She's worked hard getting into that scorer's mentality. She's put in a lot of time into her game, and it showed. She's one of the best players in the area that people have no clue about because she didn't play on varsity last year."

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