Especially following last season’s 28-4 march to the IHSA Class 4A sectional final, senior Ally Cesarini and her Lyons Township High School girls basketball teammates are accustomed to winning.
So far in this successful start, the Lions’ biggest victory has been their only defeat.
The Lions played with visiting perennial power Benet Academy on Nov. 30 – and were in position to stage the upset – before the Redwings scored the final four points in the final 30 seconds to prevail 54-51 in LaGrange.
“Obviously, I’m upset that we lost, but I’m not upset with the way that we played,” said Cesarini, who had 13 points, four rebounds and two steals.
Three other players reached double figures for the Lions (6-1) – Elin O’Brien (14 points), Nora Ezike (10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Ella Ormsby (10 points). O’Brien was 4-for-5 from 3-point range.
LTHS started strong and led from the outset but needed the first eight points of the fourth quarter to regain the lead, pulling ahead 48-46 on Cesarini’s basket.
Still ahead 51-50, the Lions struggled with turnovers and mistakes down the stretch. Benet (5-1) scored on a layup after a loose-ball scramble and added two free throws.
“We’re going to grow from that experience. That’s a loss I’ll take as a win because we’re going to learn from that and that’s not going to happen again to us,” LTHS coach Meghan Hutchens said.
Lewis recruit Cesarini made perhaps her greatest contributions defensively against Benet senior and Indiana recruit Lenee Beaumont, who was held scoreless in the first quarter but still managed a game-high 19 points. Maggie Sularski had 18 points with four threes.
“I was really excited to take on that challenge,” Cesarini said. “One of my goals was to just stop [Beaumont] from hitting shots that would give them a lot of momentum, a bigger lead. I think I did pretty well on that.”
On Dec. 3, 5-foot-10 junior Kennedy Wanless was the defensive star in the Lions’ 57-39 victory over Sycamore at Fremd as part of the Chicagoland Invitational Showcase.
Wanless defended 6-4 senior Evan Carrier and limited her to 12 points and no second-half points until a fourth-quarter three with LTHS well ahead.
“[Wanless] bumped [Carrier] every chance she got. She didn’t let her take the path to the basket that she wanted every single time,” Hutchens said. “She did a really nice job of making her work.”
Wanless also finished with eight points, eight rebounds and five steals. Add to that, Wanless was a varsity-best 3-for-3 on her three-pointers.
“I’ve been working on [my defense] a lot and then some outside shots,” Wanless said. “Obviously people don’t guard the post as much on the perimeter, so if I can kind of show that I can hit those shots, that’ll help me.”
Cesarini’s double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds) earned the tournament’s choice as LTHS Player of the Game. Ezike had 16 points and eight rebounds.
LTHS, the defending West Suburban Conference Silver champions, opened league play Nov. 29 with a 58-29 victory over Proviso West behind Elin O’Brien (17 points) and Cesarini (9 points).