Sabers grind way to title
CHAMPAIGN – Matched up against one of the state's top teams – and possibly the best player in Illinois as well – St. Thomas More responded with the heart of a scrappy fighter.
And the bloody nose to prove it.
Kassie Jones, Maggie Fitzgerald and Gina Hinders each scored nine points to lead a balanced scoring effort as STM defeated Momence 45-42 in the championship game of the Sangamon Valley Conference tournament at Parkland College.
With 3:48 remaining in the first half, Alisa Carroll, who STM coach Chris Mennig called the team's "defensive catalyst," got a shot to the face, resulting in a bloody nose.
She did not return, but Mennig said the injury forced other girls to step up and for the team to circle the wagons.
"That's what our girls said at halftime: 'We need to win this one for A.C.,' " Mennig said. "She's one of our dynamite-attention players. I thought Brittany Einck and Chelsea Green really stepped up (after the injury). Usually, that's our three-headed monster, but tonight we only had two."
The defense would be needed, as Momence features one of the top players in the state in Alabama recruit Candace Sykes.
She scored 20 points but did not get many shot attempts without being fiercely guarded.
"We threw three different defenses at her," Mennig said of Sykes. "We had a 1-1-3, a sagging man-to-man defense and a box-and-one. We tried to change things from last time, to give her at least a couple of bodies to shoot over, but she's a great player."
Tied 20-20 at the half, STM and Momence matched each other basket for basket, leading to a three-pointer by Katie Jean with 17 seconds remaining.
The Redskins brought the ball down the floor and got it to Sykes, who then airballed a three-pointer to lead the Sabers fans to chant "air ball, air ball" during the break before the fourth quarter.
St. Thomas More then built a seven-point lead after a 7-2 run, capped by a three-point play by Whitney Sullivan with 3:18 left, and Momence could not recover from there.
"Momence is going to be a tough team going into the playoffs. And we have some more tough games, some more tough nonconference ones, but I think we're starting to make the right strides once the game settled down tonight," Mennig said.
St. Joseph-Ogden 56, Tri-Point 42
Lindsey Barron scored 17 points and Kylie Holland added 12 as SJ-O won the consolation championship game of the SVC tournament. Barron and Erin Bensyl (11 points) went on a hot shooting streak just before halftime to take an 18-18 game to a 30-20 advantage. Olivia Phil-lips led the Chargers with 20 points.
Paxton-Buckley-Loda 51, Clifton Central 46
Jenna Seibring and Kelly Satterlee both had 13 points as PBL beat the Comets in overtime to take the fifth- place game of the SVC tournament.