The Trinity and Lyons Township High School girls basketball teams capped off the regular season with a Feb. 11 nonconference game in River Forest. Although the host Blazers pulled out a 49-41 win, both teams benefitted from the hard-fought regular season finale. Both teams also begin the Class 4A playoffs this week.
"This game was in a lot of ways great tune-up for regionals," LTHS coach Paul Krick said. "We have had five overtime games this year and lost all of them. We had three other losses by single digits. Our girls are tired of coming up short.
"With a fresh start in the postseason, we are looking forward to the challenges that are in front of us. If we learn from our close games, value each possession and really dig in, I think all things are possible."
Leading 23-19 at halftime against LTHS, the Blazers went on a pivotal 10-3 run led by the effective play of junior forward Alex Fanning and junior guard Lauren Lee. The 6-foot-2 Fanning scored a lay-up to cap off the Blazers' spurt.
"We were taking smart shots and not forcing anything," Lee said. "We were focusing on our defense. Lyons is a big team so we knew that defending them would be a key component to our game."
Lee scored 12 points and pulled down six rebounds for the game, while Fanning (10 points, 12 rebounds) and senior guard Emma Hayes (11 points) reached double figures scoring. Zee Stafford (8 points, 4 assists) and Dayjah Chmielewski (7 points, 7 rebounds) also played well for Trinity.
"The team has been progressing this season and improving with each game," Hayes said. "Our biggest improvement has been our defense. It's grown tremendously.
"We've been coming together more as a team, and that's another big reason we're having a great season."
Sydney Bugaieski led LTHS with 12 points, while promising freshman Lily Courier had 10 points. Junior guard Tessa Elliot chipped in six points.
Last season, Trinity earned a third-place finish in the Class 4A state playoffs. The Blazers (19-9) believe another trip downstate is possible.
"Everybody just needs to be focused," Lee said. "It all starts with practice. We do a great job of practicing hard and working together to pick each other up.
"Right now, we're all very focused and looking forward to trying to make it downstate again. We're already in that mindset and are looking forward to a great end of the season."
LTHS (16-10) takes on Downers Grove North Wednesday, Feb. 15 in the semifinals of the Oak Lawn Regional. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m.
If Trinity wins its opener (Tuesday, Feb. 14/past deadline), the Blazers will likely face Loyola in the Trinity Regional final on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m.