Whenever crosstown rivals meet in any sport, their records coming into the matchup don't mean anything. The team that's the underdog is going to go all out to get a win because it would make their season.
That was the scenario Tuesday, Jan, 23 when the Trinity visited Fenwick in a high school girls basketball non-conference matchup. The Friars' dynamic duo of McKenzie Blaze and Kate Moore had been playing well lately and looked to lead Fenwick to an upset win. But Trinity has a terrific tandem of its own in Alex Fanning and Lauren Lee.
"We're a different team when Lauren and Alex come to play," Valente said of his senior leaders. "Lauren's a big, tall wing who's hard to match up with."
Lee and Fanning proved to be the decisive factor against Fenwick, combining for 40 points in the Blazers' 64-50 win. The Blazers' role players provided plenty of support for the victors.
"I thought we shot the ball well," Valente said. "Our man-to-man offense looked good and we moved the ball well. It was equal opportunity. We knew (the Friars) were going to make a run because of the rivalry. The Fenwick kids never quit; they've been playing well lately. For us to beat them, it's a big win for us."
Fanning and Lee are four-year varsity players who set the tone. The two combined for all of Trinity's points in the first quarter (Fanning 8, Lee 6) as the Blazers grabbed a 14-8 lead after eight minutes. The team defense flourished as well denying Fenwick any made basket until the 2:45 mark on a Margaret Planek lay up.
"We played good as a team," said Lee, who scored a game-high 22 points before fouling out with 3:50 left. "We shared the ball and our defense was solid. We played at a good pace. We've been progressing as the season has gone along."
Foul trouble on both Blaze and Moore also hurt the Friars in the first half. With both on the bench for an extended period, Fenwick had to rely on other players to pick up the slack. Junior Lily Reardon managed to connect on two 3-point shots late in the half to help keep the Friars within striking distance at halftime.
Trinity led 29-19 at halftime.
After Fenwick cut the lead to 31-23 early in the third quarter, Trinity responded with a 10-0 run to open up its biggest lead at 41-23. Lee, who scored 10 points in the quarter, fueled the spurt. Freshman Makiyah Williams (11 points) scored a pair of timely buckets as well.
With Trinity seemingly en route to an easy win, Fenwick made a dramatic change. Coach Dave Power pulled his starters and had five reserves on the court. The strategy worked as the Friars tightened up defensively and got key baskets from Lauren Hall, Shelia Hogan and Maggie Van Ermen to cut the deficit to 50-40 early in the fourth quarter.
However, the Blazers responded with a 6-0 spurt to put the game away at 56-40.
"Fenwick came out and pressured us. That's the nature of the game," Valente said. "We were up trying to hold a lead and they were fighting for everything they got."
Having served as a Fenwick assistant coach under Power for six years, Valente expected nothing less from a team coached by his mentor.
"We talked on the phone twice this week. I knew (Power) was going to have his team ready," Valente said. "I try to take some of the lessons he taught me along the way and throw them back at him. It's an honor to be on the court with him. It's a big deal as I believe he is the best coach in girls basketball history in Illinois."
The Blazers (16-6) swept both of their crosstown rivals this season, defeating Oak Park and River Forest in a one-point overtime thriller in early December, and the Friars at Trinity in a Girls Catholic Athletic Conference game.
Fanning and Lee are thrilled about that fact.
"This was a good win for the team," said Fanning, who had 18 points and 10 rebounds. "We had a tough loss on Saturday, so to come here for a rivalry game and win is amazing for us. All of us are super excited."
Lee added, "It's exciting for us. We beat Fenwick earlier this year. To come back and beat them again shows we're a good team."
Moore led Fenwick (12-13) in scoring with nine points. Blaze, Hall, and Planek each added seven points. Van Ermen had seven rebounds and Planek six for the Friars.
As the state playoffs draw closer, the Blazers realize there are some things that need to be worked on.
"We have to tighten up our turnovers. I thought we turned the ball over too much tonight," Valente said. "We're missing our free throws and I'd like to see us knock down some easy shots. We also gave up too many points; I like to keep teams in the 20s and 30s."
Fanning feels the Blazers will be fueled a perceived lack of respect being shown to them.
"I think we're very confident as the season nears the end," she said. "People are underrating us. We've got to go out and prove everybody wrong when the playoffs start."