PLAINFIELD – On a night when shooting and scoring proved tough for both teams, Plainfield South girls basketball coach Lincoln DePaula was happy his team played well defensively against Joliet Catholic Academy.
While some of the top scorers struggled from the field in the first half, others had to step in and pick up the slack, and the host Cougars did a better job of that en route to a 54-42 nonconference win over the Angels.
Fortunately for South, one of its top scorers, Grace Harris, was on the mark as she hit three 3-pointers in the second half, leading her to a game-high 17 points and helping her team pull away from JCA. The Angels were without their top scorer, Jasmine Brown, and had two others, Mia Bertino and Jenna Hernandez, go scoreless in the first half.
After trailing 21-12 at halftime, the Angels (13-12) used an 8-0 run in the third quarter to close to 26-22. But the Cougars (11-9) answered with an 8-0 spurt during the fourth quarter when one of its usual top scorers, Aniya Mabry (eight rebounds), who had only scored two points to that point, scored five more points for a 43-29 lead with 4:40 remaining.
“Offensively, I don’t think we scored for the first four minutes, and we had a lid on it, but what keeps us in games is our defense,” DePaula said. “We didn’t score, but they didn’t score, either. Mia is a phenomenal shooter, and Jenna can also light it up from outside, so we wanted to make sure that those two didn’t go off. Credit to our players, they held them to zero points in the first half. That’s unbelievable.”
Bertino, who went over the 1,000-point mark in a game against Bishop McNamara this past weekend, did get going in the second with 11 points, and the Angels got solid scoring from Kiana Smith (eight points) and Emma Jay (seven points, five rebounds).
But with Harris (seven rebounds) scoring 11 points in the second half, the Cougars regained control after the Angels made things interesting in the third quarter.
South benefited from scoring from several other players. Phoebe Hillery had nine points, while Fatima Syeda, Leia James and Ciara Miller each scored six points for the Cougars, who led, 10-5, after one quarter.
“In the last couple of games, I questioned our effort a little bit,” Angels coach Jim O’Brien said. “But tonight absolutely not since our effort was there for 32 minutes. I’m disappointed that we didn’t shoot really well and didn’t have good offensive possessions and were out of sync a little bit.
“Playing without Jasmine hurt us on the offensive side of things, but we were down double digits in the second quarter and got it to four points in the third. Our girls showed a lot of guts tonight by getting after it.”