GIRLS BASKETBALL: Bishop McNamara outlasts Bloomington Central Catholic
KANKAKEE — Bishop McNamara coach John Rutter scheduled a slate full of supreme teams for his Fighting Irish this season.
And if the Irish continue to play the way they did Saturday, that tough schedule will be filled with wins.
Thanks to a balanced offensive output that saw five players score in double-figures, paired with timely defense, the Irish got out to an early lead and held on for a thrilling 82-75 win over the high-powered Saints on Saturday.
“It feels good, because it was a team effort,” senior forward Ali Berg said. “We spread the floor well, shared the ball well, so it was just good for us to win this one.”
Berg finished with a team-high 19 points for the Irish, but it was fellow forward Akayhla Dixon who got things started, racking up 11 points, five rebounds and three steals in the first half.
“She was great,” Berg said of Dixon. “She spreads the floor well, she’s long, she’s athletic; she can do everything for us.”
Dixon was one of two double-figure scorers the Irish had at the half, when they led it 40-31. Jenna Hedge had 10 points off the bench in the opening half, the beneficiary of some timely passes as the Irish made easy work of the Saints’ full-court press at the start of the game.
“That’s what we talked about at the end, it’s nice to have contributions from everybody,” Rutter said. “I thought we shared the ball really well, and in turn, finished.”
While the Irish were able to break the Saints’ press, the Saints had some trouble getting past the Irish’s full-court defense. Fifteen Saints turnovers led to 15 Irish points in the first half to cushion the Irish lead.
However, that changed in the second half. After the Saints beat the Irish pressure a few times and forced that Irish defense to retreat, it was the Saints defense that wreaked havoc, forcing eight Irish turnovers in the third.
Despite the third quarter stumbles, the Irish never relinquished the lead they took at the start of the game, and when Ty Hill scored six points in a minute and assisted on three more with just over three minutes left in the fourth, the Irish lead was back to 68-58.
“That was a big win, no doubt, but we still have things we have to get better at,” Rutter said. “I don’t think we handled the ball real well at times, I thought our defense was so-so at times; but around those times, we were pretty darn good.”
The Saints, led by Bailey Coffman’s 27-point outburst, were resilient, and kept were able to stay within a few possessions, but Berg’s 12 second-half points kept the Irish afloat, a good sign for Rutter.
“She stepped up,” Rutter said of his senior leader. “Her and I talked about that in the huddle; it was time for her to step up and she did exactly that.”
Berg added to her scoring efforts with nine rebounds, five assists and a block. Dixon had 17 points, seven boards, four assists and three steals. Kiaria Brown had 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal. Hedge and Lauren Krisko had 10 points apiece, while Krisko added six assists, three rebounds and a steal, and Hedge added a rebound, an assist and a block. Hill had nine points and four steals.
Coffman led all scorers with 27 points and added three rebounds. Lauren Shanks added 22 points, five rebounds and six assists. Katie Steinman had 17 points and three rebounds.