Lyons beats Hinsdale Central for third time, captures repeat regional title
To continue their recent regional success, senior Ally Cesarini and her Lyons Township girls basketball teammates needed to defeat rival Hinsdale Central for the third time this season Thursday.
"It's a really good accomplishment," Cesarini said. "We came in feeling really confident and we knew we would play well together and we did."
Now it's time for the Lions (28-4) to change their history with nemesis Young. The Lions captured back-to-back-regional titles for the first time since 2004-05 by beating the Red Devils 56-33 in the Class 4A Riverside-Brookfield Regional final.
Sophomore Nora Ezike had 18 points and five rebounds for the Lions, followed by Cesarini (14 points, 4 steals) and senior Ella Ormsby (5 steals, 4 assists), juniors Kennedy Wanless (9 points, 5 rebounds) and Elin O'Brien (4 points) and freshman Avery Mezan (5 points).
Freshman Katherine Skinner (14 points, 5 rebounds), sophomore Grace Dolan (7 points) and junior Greta Dani (6 points, 7 rebounds) paced Hinsdale Central (11-19).
LT, seeded No. 2 to Kenwood, advances to the Proviso East Sectional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against No. 3 Whitney Young (25-5), which defeated the Lions 52-33 in last season's LT Sectional final. The Dolphins also won 53-47 Dec. 29 in the semifinals of the Montini Christmas Tournament. The Lions are riding a 14-game winning streak. The Dolphins have won seven straight since losing to Kenwood 68-63 Jan. 28.
"We only lost by six and that wasn't even our best game so I think if we just work hard these next few days, we really should be able to capitalize," Cesarini said. "It feels good (to reach sectionals) but I know that it's not over yet so that's still in the back of my head that we just have to keep playing the way that we are and try to go as far as we can."
The Lions showed the fire they'll need -- twice -- against the No. 7 Red Devils. LT zipped to a 14-0 lead and were ahead 14-3 after one quarter. Hinsdale Central overcame 20 of its 32 turnovers to trail 25-15 at halftime, and Skinner's three early in the third quarter cut the gap to 27-18. The Lions responded with 10 unanswered points and closed out the quarter 18-5 to lead 45-23.
"The girls played well and came out in the second half and really owned the rest of the game," LT coach Meghan Hutchens said. "It's a fun win. It's never easy to beat a team three times and they've gotten much better."
Many turnovers and transition points came from the Lions' 15 steals, 14 over the first three quarters. After Ezike (10 points), Cesarini (8 points) and Wanless (7 points) accounted for the Lions' first-half points, Ezike exploded for eight points and four offensive rebounds in the third quarter.
"I just saw what was open and I took it. I just went into it confident," Ezike said. "Sometimes I get nervous thinking any game could be our last and I really just want to play hard and make sure that's not the case."
Ezike had her then season best of 20 points in the Lions' 57-39 victory over Hinsdale Central Jan 12. LT also beat Hinsdale Central 50-24 Dec. 10 in La Grange. Ezike had 22 and 24 points in the last two regular-season games.
"When she puts her mind to it, she's a beast. She's hard to stop when she gets an open lane to the basket," Hutchens said.
The Red Devils had won three straight and finished the season 6-5 after enduring an eight-game losing streak. They only graduate two seniors and one starter, Amelia McLaughlin.
"We've had a lot of rough starts and one thing I can say about them is we continue to fight," Hinsdale Central coach Erin Navolio said. "Their future's looking bright. We just have to keep working hard and playing as a team and buy into what we're trying to do."