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South Elgin's Kennede Miller drives to basket against Bartlett's Elizabeth Arco on Thursday in South Elgin. | Karen Naess ~ For Sun-Times Media
Other than a few escapades at the free throw line in the final moments -- which Ashley Johnson made everyone forget -- Bartlett looked unlike the inexperienced team it is Thursday night against South Elgin.
The Hawks made the clutch plays and foul shots and came away with a 53-50 road victory in an Upstate Eight Valley contest.
“It’s a big win for us and I think it shows we’ve made a lot of progress coming together as a team,” said Bartlett senior center Alyssa Hernandez, who led the Hawks with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
Bartlett (5-5, 2-1) owned a 49-48 lead after Kennede Miller’s 14-footer from the side for South Elgin cut the margin with a minute left. But Bartlett’s Johnson misssed a one-and-one for the second tie in the final two minutes. Then Elizabeth Arco missed two free throws after Bartlett retained possession with an offensive rebound. But South Elgin turned the ball over without getting off a shot. Then Johnson made two free throws with 23.5 seconds left and later made two more after Nell Wentling’s off-balance attempt at a long three-pointer came up well short of the rim.
The Hawks were 0-for-7 at the line in the fourth quarter until Johnson finally hit the last four.
“I guess we made them when they counted,” Bartlett coach Denise Sarna said. “We’re actually not a bad free-throw shooting team. We just need to relax a little bit.
“I think that’s what Ashley did.
“Our kids, with our inexperience, are not used to being in that situation. I’m really happy with the way they handled things when it gets tense and chaotic. And I thought they were poised. I was proud of that.”
Bartlett went ahead for good on a layup by Arco, who had 12 points and six rebounds, with 3:23 remaining. Hernandez’s rebound bucket with 2:35 left put the Hawks up 49-46 and left South Elgin in scrambling mode.
The Storm, playing without guard Kara Rodriguez because of a school visit in Texas with her family, got outrebounded 37-30 and had trouble getting the ball inside in the second half after owning what was once a 28-18 lead in the second quarter.
“We went to a man-to-man because we weren’t getting over well enough to help out when they got inside our zone,” Hernandez said. “We really seemed to play better in the man.”
South Elgin (5-4, 1-1) went 1-for-13 in the third quarter from the field and was outscored 17-8 in falling behind 43-36 starting the fourth quarter. But Wentling and Miller kept the Storm from fading and they made a move. Miller had five of her 11 points in the fourth quarter and Wentling a big three-pointer en route to 12 points.
“Early on we were shooting the ball well,” South Elgin coach Tim Prendergast said. “I was happy coming in with (a two-point lead) at the half.
“I was disappointed overall with our second-half execution on offense. It was just awful. Whether you can blame it on the coaching or we need to run more sets in practice, but we didn’t execute. And then the rebounding hurts us all the time because we’re all 4-6 out there.”