Sularski's game-winner lifts Benet over Lyons
Emilia Sularski's three-point shot has been a thing of beauty lately.
Her game-winner Wednesday?
File that one away as beauty in the eye of the beholder, one the Benet junior will gladly take.
Sularski scooped up a loose ball amid a scrum of falling bodies in the Lyons backcourt, and with a clear path raced in the go-ahead layup with 29 seconds left. Twin sister Maggie Sularski tacked on two free throws, and Benet escaped Lyons with a hard-fought 54-51 win.
"I was really excited because everybody was down and I had an open layup," Sularski said with a laugh. "I was like 'OK, let's go.' They were all on the ground, they tipped it out and I was like 'OK, why not, wide open?'"
That may have been Sularski's biggest shot Wednesday -- but she's hit a lot of shots the last two games. On Saturday, with Indiana recruit Lenee Beaumont out sick, Sularski made eight three-pointers and scored a career-high 27 points in a one-point loss to Naperville Central.
Her hot shooting carried right over. Sularski hit 4-of-7 three-point attempts and scored 18 points to complement Beaumont's 19. Sularski hit three of her threes in an 11-point third quarter, when Benet (5-1) turned a one-point halftime deficit to a 46-40 lead going to the fourth.
"Definitely confidence -- in the beginning of the season I wasn't really hitting my shots," Sularski said. "The past few games I've been hitting my threes. The confidence is building inside me. [When Beaumont was out] it gave me a chance to get some of my shots in."
Sularski isn't shy about taking her shots from anywhere. She sometimes doesn't realize where she is on the court. Benet coach Joe Kilbride noted in jest that uninhibited. But there is no joking how important Sularski's shooting is with opponents keying on Beaumont.
"She's one of those kids that if I'm in the gym I'm open," Kilbride said. "She carried us Saturday without Beaumont, and I think it got her confidence back. She's shooting it much better, like she's capable of. She's a great shooter, and a very confident shooter. Beaumont is great, but she can't do everything. We need other people to step up."
The Redwings certainly did Wednesday.
Lyons (5-1) has two starters, and two important bench pieces back from last year's 28-win sectional finalist, and added a potential Division I prospect in 6-foot-2 sophomore Nora Ezike.
The Lions led for almost the entire first half, and 26-25 at halftime. After Benet went ahead 46-40, the Lions roared right back, scoring the first eight points of the fourth quarter. Ally Cesarini steal and score with 5:09 left gave Lyons a 48-46 lead.
Elin O'Brien led four Lions in double figures with 14 points, Cesarini scored 13, Ella Ormbsy 10 and Ezike 10 points and six rebounds.
Lyons coughed up a late lead with turnovers on its last seven possessions. But, all and all, it still looked the part of a team that should be a force in Class 4A, like Benet.
"If we play like this in the future we can stay with any good team like that," said Cesarini, a senior guard and Lewis recruit, who also had four rebounds and steals.
Especially with gritty players like Cesarini, who made Beaumont work for everything she got Wednesday.
Beaumont was held scoreless the first seven minutes of the game, and was limited to two free throws in the fourth quarter. She did heat up with 15 points in the middle two quarters, but Cesarini and Lyons made it a grind.
"We came out with a goal, and that was to be the aggressors, and we did. We made them adjust to us," Lyons coach Meghan Hutchens said. "Lenee is a force, but give Ally Cesarini a ton of credit. I love that kid, I've coached her for four years now. I've always said that she is underrated. She will come out and make you work for every single point. I think Lenee will feel that in the morning."
The present of Hutchens' program is in good hands with girls like Cesarini, and so is the future with Ezike. Her steal and score in transition, drawing contact from Beaumont and converting the three-point play, tied it 46-46.
"I call her 'big time,'" Hutchens said. "Playing her, and two freshmen, in a lot of minutes, it's a credit to those kids to be able to adjust. When Nora figures it out she is going to be a force and someone that people come to games to watch, just like Lenee."
Samantha Trimberger added eight points and four rebounds for Benet, bouncing back from its first loss -- even if it wasn't easy.
"Lyons came out ready to roll and we came out like it was a Wednesday night in La Grange," Kilbride said. "I thought [the Lions'] effort was great."