Senior Ally Cesarini and her Lyons Township girls basketball teammates had their hearts set on Dec. 29 on avenging last season’s IHSA Class 4A sectional final loss to Whitney Young.

Unfortunately for the Lions, their shooting hands didn’t follow.

Too many missed opportunities added up to losses to the Dolphins 53-47 that night and to host Montini Catholic 50-36 on Dec. 30 in the third-place game at the Montini Christmas Tournament.

“We just weren’t hitting shots that we’re normally used to hitting, so I hope that we can learn to adjust when that thing kind of happens,” Cesarini said.

The Lions (11-3) still did many good things in both games and in beating Neuqua Valley 59-35 on Dec. 28 and Niles North 71-24 on Dec. 27 in the opening rounds. 

Nora Ezike

Up-and-coming 6-foot-2 sophomore Nora Ezike and 5-10 junior Kennedy Wanless earned spots on the all-tournament first and second teams, respectively. Cesarini and Ezike each received two of the tournament’s LTHS Player of the Game honors

“[This is] always a great tournament for us to learn some more of our strengths and weaknesses as we compete with better teams,” LTHS coach Meghan Hutchens said.

“Nora’s such a talented young player. When she continues to grow and mature in the game, she’s going to be a dominant player at the high school level. [Wanless] had an outstanding first two games.”

Ezike achieved a double-double against Whitney Young (14 points, 15 rebounds), along with 14 points against Montini (11-3), 15 points and eight rebounds versus Neuqua and 13 points and seven rebounds against Niles North.

Kennedy Wanless

“Especially from last year, I’ve spent a lot of time training and getting myself better as a player to help the team,” Ezike said. “I think I’ve made some progress all around on my ability to help on defense, making tough layups and looking for the open pass and shooting as well.” 

Against Neuqua, Wanless scored 14 points, hitting 7 of 10 shots from the paint, with five rebounds and collected eight points and six rebounds against Niles North. Cesarini added 14 points and Elin O’Brien (8 points) and Avery Mezan (6 points) each hit two threes.

Cesarini scored 13 against Whitney Young and 11 versus Montini. The Lions’ defensive hawk also had mesmerizing blocks against both.

“I called [the Young block] ESPN-worthy because when she did it, the gym went crazy,” Hutchens said. 

The Lions suffered their own craziness in that loss by missing 20 of 30 layup attempts. Against Montini, the Lions trailed 19-7 after one quarter. 

The Dolphins (11-4) lost 62-58 to Nazareth Academy (14-1) in the championship.