GIRLS BASKETBALL: Gwiazda’s 10 steals leads Peotone to defensive victory over Herscher
PEOTONE — Double-doubles seem to be an almost nightly occurrence in area hoops, with one of the area’s plentiful post stars hauling in double-digit points and rebounds.
But Peotone forward Samantha Gwiazda recorded hers in an unusual fashion on Tuesday night.
Gwiazda led all scorers with 18 points and posted a double-double with an unimaginable 10 steals as the Blue Devils used a late 13-0 run to come from behind and top Herscher 46-36.
″(Gwiazda) created a lot of things for us,” Blue Devils coach Steve Strough said. “She got steals on one end and took it hard to the basket and drew fouls on the other end.”
The win marked five in a row for the Blue Devils, who are now 9-4 and 3-2 in the Interstate Eight Conference. The Tigers fell to 10-8 and 3-2 in conference play.
It looked early on as if the Tigers would ride the back of junior star Mya Johanson to victory, as the forward displayed a wealth of offensive versatility and posted 14 points and eight rebounds, while the Tigers ended the first half on an 8-0 run to take a 21-18 lead to the locker room.
“Mya’s a special shooter, I tell you what,” Tigers coach Philip Peacock said. “I wish she would have gotten some more calls in the lane there, but when she feels it, she’s hard to stop.”
While Johanson and the Tigers struggled to draw calls, they had their fair share of fouls against them. Johanson picked up her fourth foul of the game halfway through the third quarter and didn’t return for nearly eight minutes of game-time.
Already short-handed without fellow forward Mattie Brown, out with an injury, Johanson was one of three Tigers in foul trouble, joined by Claire Lovell and Haley Wagner, as the Tigers faced a 32-8 free-throw discrepancy.
But Peacock said some of his more inexperienced players, such as freshman Mia Ruder and junior Zoie Hastings, stepped up in crunch time.
“We’re very inexperienced and we grew up tonight,” Peacock said. “I was so proud of them; it’s amazing to see them more comfortable as they play.”
Despite the short-handed second half, the Tigers maintained their lead up until Courtney Burks gave the Blue Devils a 36-34 lead when she splashed a 3-pointer with 3:40 to play.
And from that point on, it was all Blue Devils.
Burks’ 3-pointer was the start of a 13-0 run the Blue Devils went on over the next three minutes as the Tigers struggled with Peotone’s defensive pressure via a full-court press and half-court trap.
“We were there and all we had to do was sink a couple (shots),” Gwiazda said. “And once we got ahead, all we had to do was keep pushing.
“We just kept our foot on their throat and kept going.”
After splitting their first eight games, the Blue Devils have become one of the area’s hottest teams with their five-game winning streak. Strough said it’s defense and the ability to play an entire game that has his team rolling.
“It hasn’t been the prettiest all the time, but we’re seeing glimpses defensively; that’s helped in spurts and we’re making a few more shots every game,” Strough said. “Again, the whole theme for us is trying to put four quarters together.
“We’ll keep grinding towards it and hopefully we can keep things together a bit.”
Gwiazda scored half of her game-high 18 points from the free-throw line, where she went 9-of-13. She also missed a triple-double by one rebound, finishing with nine.
Burks finished 3-of-6 from downtown and made all six of her free-throws to finish with 15 points for the Blue Devils. Mae Graffeo had six points, seven rebounds and five steals.
Johanson finished the game with 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Tigers. Megan Berns had 10 points, four rebounds, an assist and a steal.
The Blue Devils head to Wilmington on Thursday. The Tigers are off for the holidays and will be back in action at Westmont on January 7.