Whitney Young won the highly anticipated rematch against Trinity in the Hinsdale South Sectional championship game of the Class 4A playoffs on Feb. 27. Although the Blazers edged Whitney Young earlier this season [56-52] in River Forest, Round 2 went the way of the top-seeded Dolphins, who pulled away for a 58-45 victory en route to their 11th sectional title.
“It was a battle to say the least,” Trinity center/forward Laura Sikora of the rematch. “We went in thinking we beat [Whitney Young] once, why can’t we beat them again?”
Unfortunately, the revenge-seeking Dolphins had other plans.
Up 29-19 at halftime, Whitney Young went on a 12-3 run early in the third quarter to open a sizeable lead. 6-foot-5-inch Khaalia Hillsman recorded a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds to pace the victors. Taylor Brame finished with 11 points and Tanita Allen contributed 10 points for the Dolphins.
DePaul-bound Lauren Prochaska opened the Blazers’ fourth-quarter scoring with back-to-back baskets, and junior guard/forward Patricia Stritzel added a three-pointer from the top of the key with five minutes remaining to cut the Dolphins’ lead to 10. Whitney Young answered with a 5-0 spurt to quell the Blazers’ final push. Trinity struggled against the imposing Hillsman at both ends of the floor.
“It’s always difficult trying to get around [Hillsman],” Prochaska said. “It was tough, but we had to overcome that and try to win.”
Prochaska scored 18 points to lead Trinity, while teammates Kaitlin Aylward and Annie McKenna netted 14 points and eight points, respectively. The Blazers (25-6) struggled to keep up offensively with the Dolphins, particularly in the second and third quarters. Trinity’s unwelcomed cold spell from the perimeter proved too costly to overcome against a team the caliber of the Dolphins.
Trinity knew knocking off Whitney Young twice in one season would be a handful.
“We couldn’t focus on the past, we just had to worry about this game and moving forward,” Prochaska said. “We knew [Whitney Young] would be a tough team to come back and beat.
Only a sophomore, Aylward performed admirably knocking down four shots from beyond the three-point arc on an obviously big stage.
“Kaitlin Aylward really started the game up hitting her shots, which was great,” Prochaska said. “We pushed the ball and started attacking more, but I feel like in the second half we didn’t box out as well. And we let them get too many easy shots.”
Whitney Young (29-3) advances to the Hinsdale Central Supersectional, where the Dolphins will clash with Neuqua Valley(28-5).
In the sectional semifinals at Hinsdale South, Trinity cruised past Kenwood 52-36. McKenna led the Blazers with a game-high 18 points, while Prochaska chipped in 12 points despite turning her ankle in the third quarter. Patricia Stritzel also played well offensively with 15 points, while Sikora pulled down 13 rebounds.
With an unforgettable season in the books, several players appeared in a reflective mood after the obviously disappointing loss to Whitney Young. Sikora is proud of the tight-knit bond the players shared throughout rigors of the season.
“The way our team bonded was amazing,” Sikora said. “We had great chemistry all season. We’re truly more than teammates, we’re sisters.”
Although the Blazers will lose a few key players to graduation (notably Prochaska), head coach Ed Stritzel welcomes back a plethora of talent next season. McKenna, Aylward, Patricia Stritzel and Christine Olijnyk all return among as others, as the Blazers figure once again to be a major contender for a state championship.