By James Kay
Ten minutes before the start of the conference matchup between Downers Grove North and Lyons Township high schools on Dec. 14, Lily Courier didn't know if she was going to make her return to the floor.
In the opening minutes of the first game of the season, she sprained her ankle and has nursed the injury that sidelined her during the Lions' rough start to the season.
Right before game time, Courier received a call from her mother who said that she was cleared to play by her doctor.
"I had no idea that morning if I was going to play," said Courier. "I was excited to get back out there. It's been hard watching from the bench, but we have really jelled together and pulled out a nice win tonight."
In 22 minutes of action off the bench, Courier fueled the Lions (4-5) to a 44-42 win over the Trojans (8-3). She provided 12 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks. LTHS guard Elli Kosanovich put up 11 points and collected four rebounds and three assists while Lindsey Hahn and Hailey Markworth combined for 18 points.
"It kind of was [like LTHS' first game]," said Lions head coach Meghan Hutchens on getting Courier back. "I told the team 'Lily is an amazing player but we can't rely on her to do everything. We have to continue to do the things we have done up to this point and Lily will find her game."
Lions' path to victory
The Lions shut down DGN in the first half by stifling the Trojans with their physicality. After one half, the Trojans only put up 13 points with LTHS using double-team rotations to silence their conference foe's offense.
The Trojans made more half-court shots during halftime than they made 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes of the game.
That cold streak ended as LTHS saw its lead shrink after DGN sunk its first three 3-point attempts of the second half to tie the game up at 22. The Lions countered the Trojan's comeback efforts when Hahn found Markworth in the right corner. Markworth buried a three to retake the lead. Another corner three from Kosanovich with 3.6 seconds left in the quarter gave the Lions a 32-24 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
DGN and LTHS traded 3-point blows in the first six minutes of the fourth before Trojans' captain Ellie Gross took contact going down the lane and hit a floater off the backboard to cut the LTHS lead to 40-36.
Hahn hit two free throws with 18.6 seconds left in the game to give the Lions a 44-41 cushion. On the next possession, DGN made the mistake of drawing a foul at the rim instead of going for the tie with a 3-point attempt. The Trojans would make one of two free throws but at that point there wasn't enough time to catch the Lions.
Hahn and Gross had developed a rivalry dating back to last year. Hahn admitted after the game that taking out DGN was an added bonus on top of the win.
"It's the best feeling," said Hahn. "I don't like any of them really, but honestly having Lily back was huge for us and it was a great team win. Everyone played well on defense and we weren't rushed on offense. They are known for having a good defense and I think we kept our composure."
LTHS will try to build off their fresh start against Oak Park and River Forest on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. in Oak Park.