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Sandburg's Rachel Ruzevich (left) defends Bloom Township's Bria Gaines during the Hillcrest Holiday Classic girls basketball tournament in Country Club Hills Wednesday, December 26, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
The many faces of Bloom were on full display Wednesday during the Blazing Trojans’ wild 66-61 overtime victory over Sandburg in second round action at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic.
For nearly the entire first half, they were a team tentative on offense and sluggish on defense as Sandburg raced and shot its way to a big halftime lead.
During the third quarter, they were a team that attacked on offense and was ferocious on defense in turning a 14-point deficit into a nine-point lead.
Then, after Sandburg showed some resilience of its own to roar back into a tie and force overtime, they dominated the four-minute extra session.
To be sure, it was one crazy roller-coaster ride.
“Yes, it happens a little too often. But after coach yells at us, we pick it up,” said Blazing Trojans senior Bria Gaines, who rallied herself from a six-point first half to finish with 32 points and 15 rebounds.
Katherine Strong added 11 points and Danielle King eight for Bloom, which went to 2-0 for the day and improved to 10-4 on the season.
Sandburg (6-8) was led by Rachel Ruzevich (25 points), Samantha Youngwirth (15 points) and Brittney Munoz (8 points).
The Eagles, who beat Oak Forest in the morning’s first round with a flurry of three-pointers by Youngwirth, did that and more in the first half against Bloom.
Ruzevich, in particular, was effective in executing several back-door layups against a flat-footed Bloom defense. It was s 32-18 at the half.
“They were setting good screens and we weren’t talking,” Gaines said. “We left them open for their baskets.
“At halftime I talked to the team and said, ‘Ladies, we have to pick it up. We have to win this game. I’m not going home with a loss.’”
The Blazing Trojans were a different team in the third period. They were 10-for-14 from the field, while Gaines converted three three-point plays and scored 15 points. Stunningly, it was 45-36 at the break.
“I honestly have no idea [what happened],” Ruzevich said. “We were there, and then our defense just broke down a little bit in the third quarter and we let them get easy baskets. But we knew we had to fight back.”
Down 49-39 with five minutes remaining, the Eagles seemed to light up after Munoz hit a three. Back-to-back layups by Youngwirth during the final 31 seconds forced a 55-55 tie. They had a chance to win it on a buzzer-beating three from the right corner by Ashley Youngwirth, but it glanced off the front of the rim.
The final act was all Bloom, as Gaines scored six points during an 8-0 run.