By Marty Farmer
Nazareth Academy senior Annie Stritzel has repeatedly proven she can do it all on a basketball court. Her most recent inspired performance came against Christmas tournament host Montini in the Roadrunners' 41-40 championship game win on Saturday, Dec. 29.
Although Stritzel's stat line was relatively pedestrian (19 points, 5 assists, 3 steals/blocks each) by her lofty standards, her ability to make huge plays late in the fourth quarter made the difference. The Harvard-bound swingman scored the game-winning basket with eight seconds left in the fourth quarter. On the game's final play, Stritzel blocked Montini's Sydney Prochaska shot at the buzzer to seal the Roadrunners' first title at the Montini tourney and second victory against the highly regarded Broncos this season. Earlier this season, Nazareth beat Montini 47-40 in the final of the Harvest Christian tourney around Thanksgiving.
In addition to Stritzel's spectacular sequence in the closing seconds during Saturday's game, she also had a key steal late in the fourth quarter and scored the Roadrunners' final nine points of the game.
Kaylen Evans added 14 points for Nazareth, which defeated three top 10-ranked teams (Evanston Fremd and Montini) at the tournament. Evans earned second-team all-tourney recognition at Montini.
While Stritzel is clearly the team's leader and Evans a very good player in her own right, the Roadrunners have talent across the board. Guards Jovanna Martinucci, Sophia Cullotta and Laila Rodriguez are solid in the backcourt, while Franchesca Metz and promising freshman Caroline Workman are other key contributors along the frontline..
Freshman Tatiana Thomas led Montini with a game-high 21 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for an impressive double-double against Nazareth on a big stage. Fellow freshman Angelina Giordano hit a timely 3-pointer to put Montini ahead 40-37 before Stritzel scored the last two baskets of the game. The underclassmen-laden Broncos are 17-2, their only losses against Nazareth.
Nazareth opened the tourney with a 58-36 victory against Lyons Township as Cullotta scored 16. In a 74-66 win over Evanston, Stritzel scored a game-high 30 points. She led the team in scoring as well with 16 points in a 44-35 win against Fremd
The Roadrunners (15-1), who have already faced seven highly ranked teams in the Chicago area, take on two-time defending state champion Geneva at the Benet Shootout on Saturday, Jan. 5. Tip-off is 11 a.m.