Bemis' 19 points lead Antioch past Vernon Hills
Callie Bemis' mask got dislodged at a crucial moment in a girls basketball game Saturday afternoon.
A referee, of all people, had committed the unintentional misdemeanor when he bounced a sharp pass to the Antioch junior guard before a free-throw attempt. The basketball smacked Bemis in the face, with her Sequoits leading host Vernon Hills 36-34 with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter of a Cougar Classic game.
The ref apologized, asked for the ball back and then delivered a gentler bounce pass to the resilient, 5-foot-6 Bemis.
The redo allowed Bemis to reset.
"I'm glad he gave me a little time to refocus before that foul shot," Bemis, her mask firmly affixed, said afterward.
Bemis netted the freebie -- the final point, it turned out -- and finished with 19 points, or more than half of Antioch's output in a 37-34 victory. She went 6-for-8 from the charity stripe and hit all 3 of her 3-pointers in the first half.
But the final result had more to do with Antioch's movement on offense than it did with a made free throw following a mask's sudden shift.
Coach Tim Borries' Sequoits had entered the Saturday matinee with an 0-2 Cougar Classic record and installed a new offense only 48 hours earlier.
"We'd been standing around too much in the old one," Borries said. "I saw much better movement, constant movement, today. And the girls fought and played hard the whole game. Tenacity -- they had that."
They had a plethora of offensive rebounds, too, thanks in part to all that motion during possessions. Twelve of Antioch's 32 boards came off the offensive glass. Sequoits senior Avery Larson, a 6-2 center in her fourth varsity season, snared a game-high 11 rebounds, including 5 in the final frame when the visitors outscored VH 10-4.
A Bemis putback triggered an 8-0 run at the outset of the fourth quarter, after VH junior guard Katie Huse had given the Cougars a 30-27 advantage on a putback just before the third-quarter buzzer.
A free throw and basket from Antioch junior guard Cambell Lazarz (6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) sandwiched a steal-and-layup sequence from Sequoits senior guard Arianna Nikolov (4 points, 6 rebounds) during that 8-0 burst, which gave Antioch a 35-30 lead with 2:04 remaining.
VH (1-2) got another putback from sophomore reserve guard Shyanne St. Louis (4 points, 5 rebounds) and a fast-break field goal from 6-3 junior center Grace Koepke (team-high 12 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals) -- off a St. Louis assist -- to narrow the lead to 35-34. with 43 seconds left.
Bemis drew a hard foul in the lane 21 seconds later and sealed it for Antioch (1-2) with a pair of free throws. Before making the first one, she shook off knee pain; before making the second, she dealt with a throbbing face.
"Our defense, definitely," Larson (6 points) said of the Sequoits' top strength of the day. "But I also liked how we executed at the other end of the floor. Boxing out like we did, allowing us to get those offensive rebounds, was also huge."
Vernon Hills trailed 10-9 after one quarter and went up 16-13 on a high-arcing trey from 6-1 junior guard Alexa Cieslinski (7 points, 4 rebounds) at 2:47 of the second stanza.
The clubs entered halftime tied at 18.
"We didn't compete the way I wanted us to compete," Cougars coach Paul Brettner admitted. "We have to go harder than we did today, mentally and physically. We didn't do enough ball reversals before shots. Too many pass-pass-chuck possessions.
"We had some encouraging possessions. Not enough, though."
VH junior forward Ava Barszcz had a team-high 3 steals.
Antioch sophomore guard Nicole Kutcher finished with a deceptively quiet 2 points and 2 rebounds in an off-the-bench role. She grabbed both of her boards -- offensive caroms -- in the third quarter, with the first leading directly to her assist on an easy basket by Bemis. Kutcher got fouled while hauling down the second nearly 2 minutes later, and her second free throw put the Sequoits up 27-26.
"We stayed in our system, offensively and defensively, about 99 percent of the time today," said Borries, whose girls lost by 3 points and 4 points in their first two Classic games. "I'm happy now, happy as a lark.
"Paul Brettner's Vernon Hills teams are always solid," he added.