JOLIET – With Joliet West trying to mount a comeback under tough circumstances against rival Joliet Central on Monday, Steelmen girls basketball coach Laura Brumfiel was happy to have junior guard Jalysa Stokes with the ball in her hands.
Stokes accounted for 22 of Central’s 47 points, including 14 in the second half and nine straight during a key stretch during the fourth quarter to help the host Steelmen hang on for a 47-44 Southwest Suburban Conference East Division victory over the Tigers.
In a span of about four minutes in the fourth quarter, Stokes hit two short shots and made five free throws to build leads between four and six points, as West kept fighting despite not having senior Jazzpher Evans because of injury and freshman Lisa Thompson having an off night shooting.
Thompson, who averaged 18 points a game in two SPC wins last week, finished with 11 points but didn’t connect on her first field goal until there was 5:30 left in the game. Central (5-3, 2-1) used an effective defense to stymie the Tigers (5-3, 2-1), who only shot 16 of 56 from the floor (28.6%).
“I thought we played good defense,” Brumfiel said. “We played team defense and really tried to limit them to one shot. We want to get the ball in the hands of our guards, and the girls are starting to do all of the little things that make a difference. Taking care of the ball and boxing out and rebounding are two of our big keys.”
The Steelmen grabbbed an 11-0 lead to start the game and were ahead, 11-4, after one quarter, 18-15 at halftime and 28-27 after three quarters.
Other leaders for Central were A’llasha Alexander, who had nine points and 14 rebounds, while Kameryn Chandler (seven rebounds), Ni’Azia Sims-Wright and Ashanti Brown each had five points.
“It was really our defense,” Stokes said. “Ashanti and Ni’Azia really stepped up and played great defense. We all played our roles that our coach gave us offensively and defensively, which really helped us to stay composed in pressure moments.”
Also helping to drive West’s comeback effort was sophomore Grace Walsh, who led her team with 15 points with 10 rebounds. Akeisha Watson scored six points, while Destiny McNair and Maliyah Walker (12 rebounds) each added five points for the Tigers, who only trailed 28-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
“I give our girls credit since they played hard and fought to the end,” Tigers coach John Placher said. “But on key possessions, we have to take care of the ball. It hurts when of your two leading scorers, one is out and the other struggles from the field. We can play with anybody, but with some young girls we have to find a way to win tough, grind-out games.”