JOLIET–Rich Central’s girls basketball team had a chance to cut Waubonsie Valley’s lead to five late in the third quarter, which proved to be a pivotal moment in Monday's game.
Unable to convert a pair of free throws to accomplish that, the Warriors regrouped and slammed the door shut on the Olympians’ chances.
A decisive 19-0 run helped Waubonsie roar to a 54-30 victory and helped erase the thoughts of Saturday’s loss to South Elgin. The game was a part of Joliet West’s MLK Classic.
“We just started executing better,” Waubonsie junior Rachael Ross said. “Coach called a timeout around that time and she just told us we had to execute. That’s what we did better. We had 24 hours to think about a loss, and we got back to winning today and came out strong.”
Rich Central (10-8) cut the lead to 33-26 on a pair of Raven Logan free throws in the third. Tyron Eubanks-Thornton had a shot to cut it even further, but when she missed her two free throws, Waubonsie (16-3) went on a roll.
Aside from a Tanysha Gardner-Walls three-pointer, the Warriors’ entire 19-0 run came either in the paint or at the free throw line. That run pushed the lead to 52-26 and put the game away.
“I don’t think (the size differential) was the biggest issue for us, because we can front the post and we’re pretty quick,” Rich Central coach Bryan Craig said. “They had some really good structured plays, though. They screen a lot, which helps their bigs a lot. That’s another issue. We didn’t communicate well on defense.”
The play in the post was crucial to the win for Waubonsie. With Tami Morice suffering from a rare rough shooting day, hitting only 1-of-9 three-pointers, the interior players had to step up.
Ross was a big part of that, scoring all 12 of her points in the first three quarters. Sophomore Gratia Brooks added 10 points and 11 rebounds and Gardner-Walls scored 12, mostly from the interior.
“Tami gets down on herself sometimes when she doesn’t make her threes, and we tell her that we’ve got her back,” Ross said. “I think that’s what a team is all about, having each other’s backs. When somebody’s down, we want to pick each other up.”
Junior Erica Jordan played significant minutes off the bench in her return from ACL surgery. She scored four points. After joining up with the team at the start of December for practice and finally getting some recent game action, Ross is hopeful Jordan can play the role of a trade-deadline acquisition down the stretch this season.
“She’s doing really well,” Ross said. “Rehab was really, really good for her. During December, she was trying to get her wind back. She’s still trying to do that. She’s about 75 percent. By the end of the season, she should be 100 percent for the postseason. We’re rooting for her.”