The Lyons Township High School girls basketball team has yet to reach its potential, but the Lions passed a key test on Saturday when they won even with their star playing having an off night.
Despite a rare poor shooting performance from leading scorer Vicki Swift, the Lions received 16 points and nine rebounds from forward Kayla Morrissey and 10 points and six assists from point guard Gaby Galassini to knock off visiting St. Joseph 62-54 in LaGrange.
Morrissey, a 5-foot-9 senior, attacked the basket with relish and made her first seven shots. She finished 7-for-8 from the floor.
“That’s a credit to my teammates,” Morrissey said. “They were passing me the ball well. I love attacking the basket and I did a lot of that in the first half, so that’s a big part of my game. My team helped me do that by giving me the ball and they did a really good job today.”
Morrissey’s contributions were vital as Swift had trouble getting her shot to fall against the Chargers’ aggressive defense. Swift was just 2-for-12 from the floor and 9-for-18 from the free-throw line. Even so, she still managed to score 14 points to go with five steals and three assists.
Swift’s struggles prompted Morrissey and some of the other Lions to shoulder more responsibility.
“That does come to my mind a little bit because when Vicki’s having an off day shooting – which she normally doesn’t because she’s a very good shooter – everyone else has to step up,” Morrissey said. “Because when she hits her outside shots, normally the team plays well and she wasn’t hitting those today so I just said, ‘hey, I’ve got to take it to the basket.’ Other people had to step up and Vicki started attacking the basket. Once she can’t shoot, she attacks the basket so that’s how it works.”
Swift made four free throws and Morrissey one in the first half as the Lions (9-5) eked out a 28-22 lead at intermission.
The hosts extended the lead to 37-26 on a 17-foot jumper by Morrissey midway through the third quarter but St. Joseph (6-10) made it interesting down the stretch. Chanel Brown scored 10 of her game-high 23 points in the second half as the Chargers cut the deficit to six before the hosts responded with a 10-3 run to get it back up to 51-38 with 4:19 left in the fourth quarter.
The Lions were terrible at the free-throw line, making only 17 of 36, but the Chargers could get no closer than six the rest of the way as they were just 13-for-24 from the stripe.
“Free throws come down to being able to shoot them under pressure with confidence,” LTHS coach Paul Krick said. “It can be a little bit of a challenge coming off a break. If it had been closer that would have been a real bugaboo looking back kicking ourselves.
“I’m more disappointed in the number of offensive rebounds we gave up in the first half and our handling of the pressure up front because we’ve practiced that.”
The Lions were coming off a one-week break after going 2-2 at the Wheaton North Falcon Classic. LTHS did well, finishing in fourth place after being seeded fifth. The Lions knocked off fourth-seeded West Aurora, which was 10-1 at the time, 56-47 in the quarterfinals before losing 65-60 in overtime to top-seeded and eventual champion Hersey in the semifinals. They then lost to Downers Grove North 51-48, a team that beat the Lions 58-35 just eight days prior, in the third-place game.
LTHS is 2-2 in West Suburban Silver play. The Lions resume league action on Friday when they travel to Oak Park and River Forest.
“I think we’ve improved a lot since the last time we played these other teams,” Morrissey said. “Downers North we played awful the first time, but in the tournament we lost by three. I think a lot of teams will have to watch out for us.”