Big third quarter helps North Catholic girls cruise past Freeport
The North Catholic girls basketball team had won 40 straight section games coming into Monday’s Section 1-4A clash for first place against Freeport.
The Yellowjackets pushed the Trojanettes to the limit in the first half and threatened the streak with a one-point halftime advantage.
But Trib HSSN’s No. 1 Class 4A team flexed its muscle in the third quarter to take control, and it added up to a 71-37 victory.
“We talked at halftime about us just playing our game,” North Catholic coach Molly Rottmann said. “We had to settle down and take a deep breath. The girls felt that challenge. We got a little off our game in the first half, and Freeport came out and played really well.”
North Catholic upped its overall record to 16-1 and its section mark to 11-0.
“We wanted to have another game like this,” Rottmann said. “We’re going to have games like these in the playoffs. We might see Freeport again, and I would expect another tough game. This game was a good playoff prep, and the girls responded.”
Freeport, No. 4 in the Class 4A rankings, fell to 14-3 and 9-2 in section play. The Yellowjackets had won seven straight since a 75-63 loss to North Catholic on Jan. 3.
“I told the girls that I know this is going to sting because we had a chance to beat them and tie them in the section,” Freeport coach Fred Soilis said. “We’ve got Apollo-Ridge, Knoch and Indiana coming up (in section). We have to still take care of business to try to get a (playoff) bye.”
In the first game of the season series, the Yellowjackets trailed 14-2 in the first quarter but played even with North Catholic the rest of the way. On Monday, Freeport fell behind 12-3 at the 4-minute, 49-second mark of the first quarter but battled back with its defense, rebounding and the shooting of Harley Holloway and Samantha Clark.
Holloway and Clark had 12 points each in the first half as Freeport rallied to lead 28-27 at the break. Holloway scored nine to fuel an 18-12 second-quarter advantage for the Yellowjackets.
Two free throws from reserve Belle O’Hara five seconds before halftime closed Freeport’s lead to one.
Little did anyone know those two points would be the start of a 21-0 run that lasted until Clark hit a 3-pointer with 2:36 left in the third quarter. North Catholic forced six Freeport turnovers during the run.
“Our defense started to cause them problems, and we were on fire offensively,” Rottmann said. “We were not doing a good job keeping them off the boards in the first half. We fixed and changed some things in our defense, and it worked out well.”
Dani Short converted a pair of layups late in the third, and North Catholic took a 51-33 lead into the fourth.
“We were down seven to them in the third quarter at our place. But then the wheels fell off because we make costly turnovers and mistakes,” Soilis said. “North Catholic is a well-seasoned team, and that’s what can happen. We need to take care of the ball.”
Kylee Lewandowski scored seven consecutive points for the Trojanettes during the big third-quarter run and then delivered 14 points in the fourth quarter to finish with a game-best 30. She was 6 of 10 from 3-point range.
Tess Myers added 15 points for the Trojanettes, while Short finished with 12.
Clark finished with a team-leading 15 points for Freeport, and Holloway had 14.
Sidney Shemanski, the Yellowjackets’ leading scorer, was held to two points, but she contributed nine rebounds.
“We played right with them in the first half, and I don’t think they expected us to have the lead at halftime, especially after getting that 12-3 lead early,” Soilis said. “The girls played their hearts out.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-388-5825, [email protected] or via Twitter @MLove_Trib.