Libertyville routs Warren to win Winter Classic title
At Friday's Libertyville Winter Classic title game, the Wildcats got some impressive first-half stat lines from a couple of their upperclassmen.
Going up against Warren, senior Emily Fisher scored 12 points, had 4 steals, 4 rebounds and 2 blocked shots before intermission, while junior teammate Kate Rule put up 10 points and had 8 boards.
Along with those outstanding performances, however, Libertyville got a big-time spark from the only freshman on its roster.
When Sophia Swanson came off the bench in the first quarter, the Wildcats had just a 1-point lead; when she hit the pines again midway through the second period, that advantage had increased to 15.
Swanson kept in up the second half as well, leading her team to a 57-25 victory to claim the tournament championship.
"Sophia played a great game," said Libertyville coach Greg Pedersen. "She handles the ball well, she has a smooth shot, and can get into the paint even though she's on the smaller side.
"Even though she's a freshman, she doesn't back down from anyone. Her presence was felt on defense tonight."
Swanson finished with 15 points.
"It's about working together and always sharing the ball," said the frosh. "I just had to work hard and be a good teammate."
Junior guard Shay Love led Warren with 6 points.
"We had really good energy coming out," said Blue Devils coach John Stanczykiewicz. "But that's been our story -- we can't sustain that energy, and then we get kind of down on ourselves.
"Until we improve that, games like this are going to happen against good teams. We have to stay together and not beat ourselves up so much."
Playing Loyola Thursday in the lead-up game to Friday's final, Libertyville was shut out in the initial period and didn't get its first points until early in the second quarter.
The Wildcats solved that problem in a hurry against Warren, getting their first basket of the game 18 seconds in on a layup from Fisher.
The game seesawed back and forth early until a couple of 3s from Kate Rule, and a 3-point play by Swanson, helped Libertyville take a 16-7 lead after one quarter.
Buckets from Love and Mariah Phelps of Warren cut into the lead in the second, but the Wildcats extended the advantage to 29-13 at halftime.
"The kids responded well today," said Pedersen, "because we knew they'd be a little gassed from playing Loyola yesterday (a 36-30 Wildcats win). They had to put out a lot of energy to stop them."
Warren's Ronarrha Powers hit a 3-pointer in the opening stages of the third stanza to cut in to the Libertyville lead, but the Wildcats responded behind the efforts of Swanson.
In the span of just a minute, Swanson made a steal and assisted on a Rachel Rule score; had another steal, was fouled and sank two free throws; then got into the paint for an offensive rebound that led to another basket.
That gave Libertyville a commanding lead going into the fourth, and when Swanson opened the final period by swishing a 3-pointer, the game was all but over.
Fisher scored 15 points for Libertyville to match Swanson's total, while Kate Rule totaled 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Phelps and Anika Youngman each finished with 5 points for Warren.
"Our goal was to win our pool have a chance to play in the championship game, and we accomplished that," said Stanczykiewicz as the Blue Devils were 3-0 leading up to the title contest.
"Libertyville is just a talented team," added the coach. "They have size, guards and depth, and probably the best player in the county in Emily Fisher."
"She's the straw that stirs the drink, and everything goes through her. They just do a great job of playing together."