Nazareth and Fenwick’s girls basketball programs participated in the Chicagoland Showcase invitational on Jan. 4 at Benet Academy. Here is how the two programs fared in the event over the weekend.
Nazareth stunts late run by Stagg
The Roadrunners survived two big runs by Stagg to win their 11th game of the season by a final score of 48-46. Senior Kaylen Evens, who is committed to Loyola University, had 12 points, 3 assists and 5 rebounds while her teammate Justina Hernandez had 15 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds.
While Nazareth knew going in what Stagg could bring to the table, coach Ed Stritzel was more concerned with how his team played at the end of the game.
“We knew going in that they could score,” said Stritzel. “We were very concerned with their point guard and probably put too much onus on her. But, honestly, it comes down to the unforced mistakes late in the game. We have to finish games better and we are disappointed in how we played in the end.”
Nazareth started off on a 9-0 run to open the contest. Slowly, over the course of the first quarter, Stagg inched back and erased the Roadrunners’ lead when Raenn Leach hit a corner three with a second left to put Stagg up 12-11.
The Roadrunners reclaimed their lead in the second quarter and went on a 15-4 run before ending the half up 29-20.
After both teams couldn’t break away from each other in the third quarter, Stagg started to put pressure on Nazareth. The Roadrunners held a 41-34 advantage before the Chargers came back and took the lead at 43-41 when Kelsey Dwyer hit from deep with four minutes to go.
At that point, Evans decided to take over.
“As a captain, you have to prepare for those moments,” said Evans. “I felt like I needed to take ownership as a player to step up and get it done.”
After Nazareth tied the game at 43-43, Evans ripped the ball away from Maeli Sanchez and went coast to coast with 2:10 remaining in the game. On the next offensive possession, Evans created room for herself, found an opening in the paint, and finished off the glass to make it a two-possession game with 1:16 left.
The Roadrunners missed a free throw with 29.3 seconds remaining before Sanchez ran up the court and buried a three with 18 seconds left. Stagg swarmed Nazareth on the next possession and forced the Roadrunners into throwing the ball out of bounds at midcourt with 5.2 seconds left in regulation. However, Stagg didn’t get a clean look and Nazareth won 48-46.
“I know it’s a cliché but you have to learn how to win,” said Stritzel. “There are some kids who don’t know how to win on this team yet, and it’s my job to get them there. We are very talented and have a couple kids who are injured but we have to get better.”
Nazareth plays Zion Benton on Jan. 9 at home at 6:30 p.m.
Friars lose 73-55 to Simeon
Fenwick (17-2) was put to the test against the seventh-best team in the state and held its own until midway through the second quarter. Down 26-17 at the beginning of the quarter, the Friars took advantage of three Simeon turnovers to pull the game to 26-25.
However, the Wolverines went on a 14-0 run with 5:17 left in the half and distanced themselves from the Friars the rest of the way.
Fenwick’s Elise Heneghan poured in 17 points while her teammate Audrey Hinrichs scored 16. However, it was Simeon’s Aneesa Morrow (15 NCAA Division I offers) and Khaniah Gardner (21 Division I offers) who stole the show on Jan. 4.
Morrow had 31 points (14-of-23 shooting), 15 rebounds and 6 assists and Gardner put up 22 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists.
Going into the game, the Friars were ranked eighth in the state and have dominated teams despite the strength of their schedule. With the loss to Simeon, the team might have had a wakeup call.
“If you ask me, I think Simeon was the best team in that gym all day,” said Fenwick coach Dave Power. “That is the team we want to play. I do walk away thinking, ‘We have a definite chance at beating [Simeon] another day.’ Yesterday just wasn’t our day, and I think we will be ready for them if we face them in the playoffs.”