Girls basketball: Trinity downs Neuqua Valley
By Matt Le CREN January 23, 2013 10:02PM
Trinity was on the verge of blowing a big lead on senior night before a freshman came to the rescue.
Rookie guard Annie McKenna, who at 5-4 was the smallest player on the court, hit the biggest shot of the game, draining a three-pointer to keep visiting Neuqua Valley at bay as the host Blazers squeaked out a 39-33 victory Wednesday in River Forest.
Trinity (18-3) had taken a 31-19 lead into the fourth quarter, only to see the Wildcats (21-2) use a 14-3 run to cut the gap to 34-33 on a layup by Allison Hedrick with 1:26 left.
The Blazers called timeout and on the ensuing possession senior guard Taylor Nazon drove toward the basket before passing to the open McKenna in the left corner. McKenna swished the shot, her third trey of the game, to make it 37-33 with 1:04 left.
Ironically, McKenna had passed up a shot from the same spot a couple minutes earlier when Trinity’s lead was still seven points. But on that occasion she felt she didn’t have enough space.
“I wanted a wide-open shot so I knew it would have a good chance of going in,” McKenna explained. “We wanted to get penetration and kick the ball out for an open shot [on the decisive play]. That was our goal.”
Nazon, who was playing with four fouls and wasn’t pleased with her performance, had no qualms about having a freshman take that shot.
“It wasn’t a [designed] play,” said Nazon, who had six points, six rebounds and three assists. “I drove and the defense collapsed so I got her the ball and [it was] incredibly big shot when we really needed it.
McKenna, who had 11 points and three steals, is getting a reputation as a deadly three-point shooter but that was the first time she’d hit a game-winner in a big game.
“As a freshman she’s kind of learning when to shoot, when to not shoot,” Nazon said. “Sometimes earlier in the season she was driving against girls who were like 6-3 and getting her shot blocked, so now she’s learning when she has an open shot to take it and she’s having more confidence, so when we need her down the line in big games like that, she can [do it].”
“It was awesome to [help] the team with that shot,” McKenna said. “I wanted to do it for the seniors because it was one of the last games at home. It was a good way to end.”
The Wildcats, whose only previous loss was a 48-47 decision at Naperville Central on Dec. 15, missed their last three shots in the final minute and Trinity’s Lauren Prochaska finished the scoring by sinking two free throws with 23.9 seconds remaining.
Prochaska had a game-high 14 points and seven steals for Trinity, which became the first team to beat the Wildcats at their own game. Neuqua Valley is known for its stifling defense, having surrendered an average of 33.3 points per game.
“I think we finally met a team that plays defense as well as we do,” Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams said. “But you know what, we need these opportunities right now. I’d rather have this now, two weeks before the state playoffs, than have it the first game of the playoffs.
“I love this. Our goal was to come through this stretch of a couple weeks in January and squeak out most of the games and lose one, that’s a great success for us.”
The Wildcats did have success in the first quarter in breaking down the Trinity defense a little bit, but the Blazers stopped the bleeding in time.
“I give those guys a lot of credit,” Williams said. “They were in our face and did some things other teams haven’t done, but when we started playing our game, we were slip-screening, dumping balls inside and getting some layups and forcing them into some turnovers. Then the kid hit a big three.”
Trinity coach Ed Stritzel wasn’t happy with how his team played in the fourth quarter but McKenna’s shot allowed him to joke around afterward.
“I told my seniors, ‘I’m so mad at you our freshman had to bail you out,’ but that’s how weird our team is,” Stritzel said. “Our team is so young in spots. Our freshmen are not afraid to let it go, though. You’ve got to guard them.”
Hedrick had 12 points to lead Neuqua, while Bryce Menendez added seven points, 10 rebounds and two blocks and Myia Starks tallied seven points.