Nazareth snaps Benet's 40-game ESCC streak
Mary Bridget Wilson calls the secret to Nazareth's quick hands defensively "Mickey Mouse."
And then she illustrated what that meant.
"We keep our hands low, but then we pop them right out when we think they're going to pass it," said Wilson, Nazareth's 5-foot-8 junior guard. "We'll keep them by our ears and then we'll pop out our hands."
Wilson indeed was an absolute pest defensively Wednesday.
She had six of Nazareth's 14 steals in its trapping matchup zone that had Benet all out of sorts offensively in the first half.
The Roadrunners never trailed and held off a late rally from the visiting Redwings for a 37-32 win, snapping Benet's 40-game regular-season winning streak in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
Danielle Scully and Olivia Austin each had nine points, Amalia Dray had eight points and Wilson had six points and six steals for Nazareth (15-1, 3-0). The Roadrunners, unbeaten against in-state teams, notched their second big win in less than a week. They beat Young in last week's championship game at Montini, and followed that up with a win over Benet (11-5, 3-1), which has won the last five ESCC titles outright. It's the first win over Benet at Nazareth for seventh-year coach Eddie Stritzel.
"It's a lot of years getting our brains beaten in by them. It feels good to finally get one," Stritzel said. "They are such a great program, have really controlled this conference for a while. It feels like maybe it's our turn."
It may just be, and then some, with the kind of defense Nazareth plays.
The Roadrunners jumped out to a 14-2 lead in the first quarter, and still led 22-11 at half despite an almost six-minute scoring drought bridging the first and second quarters. Nazareth forced 13 Benet turnovers and overcame several missed layups to maintain its double-digit lead.
"We were just trying to get the ball out of Lenee [Beaumont's] hands. She's a great player," Wilson said. "We wanted to get out on their shooters. We got a lot of steals and points off our defense."
Austin and Dray scores off turnovers had the Nazareth margin to 13 out of halftime, but Benet rallied on the back of Indiana recruit Beaumont.
Beaumont, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds, scored 13 of her points in the second half after missing her first four shots of the game.
Back-to-back Beaumont runners closed Benet to within seven, 34-27, with 6:11 left.
"We started to get the ball behind the zone. The first half we didn't know that there was a behind the zone," Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. "Once we set our field of vision beyond the front line I thought we did fine."
With Nazareth's lead hanging in the balance, Wilson's quick hands twice came through to keep Benet at bay.
She twice had steals on Redwings' possessions in the final minutes where they could have cut the lead to five, which Benet finally did on Beaumont's 3-pointer but not until there was 1:18 left. Wilson was also 4-for-4 from the line in the first half as Nazareth hit its first eight attempts.
Just another steady performance from a girl who was the first off the bench for Nazareth's state runner-up last year, and now a defense-first starting point guard. Nazareth had just seven turnovers to Benet's 19.
"She is just an unassuming kid. She doesn't care how many points she scores, she just loves to be out there," Stritzel said. "Just love the kid. Her and Amalia together are so good at the top of the zone. She does get overshadowed a little bit by all the other talented girls we have, but she just does all the little things."
Samantha Trimberger, who came off the bench for Benet on Wednesday after missing practice because of sickness, added six points, three rebounds and three steals for the Redwings, who dropped their third straight game for the first time in Kilbride's nine seasons.
"We were just statues with the ball in the first half, we weren't ripping and moving," Kilbride said. "We had too many turnovers and a lot of those turnovers led to runouts, live ball turnovers that led to layups and fouls. I kept telling them, we haven't played very well, and we're in this game."