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Marian Catholic played Saturday’s East Suburban Catholic Conference game against Benet without second-leading scorer Teniya Page, who was resting a sore foot.
Early on it didn’t seem to matter, but a late charge by Benet made the No. 4 Spartans take it out of cruise control to hang on for a 63-56 decision in Chicago Heights.
Ashton Millender totaled 15 points and seven rebounds, Kauai Bradley 11 points and eight rebounds, Megan Walsh and Melanie Ransom nine points each and Paula Zerante eight points for Marian (25-1, 8-0).
Emily Schramek had 18 points and Christen Prasse 14 points and eight rebounds for Benet (17-9, 4-4).
The win was a satisfying one for the Spartans, who exacted revenge for a 62-45 loss to Benet last season and took another step closer to matching the 2010-11 Marian squad as an unbeaten conference titlist.
“It’s very important to us to make a new (achievement) for the school,” said Bradley, a 6-foot sophomore. “We have a good team this year. We have a strong team.”
The Spartans came out strong, ending the first period with a 14-2 run that left them in front 21-10. Bradley had six points during the good start and Millender seven. The Spartans defense forced several wayward shots by Benet, including its last eight of the quarter.
It was a tempo that would continue through the end of the third period as Marian coach Annie Byrne went deep into her bench, still getting production. Marian led 50-30 going into the final eight minutes.
“Last week in the Sweet 16 we played 15 kids and I thought all 15 kids played well,” Byrne said. “But it was hard for us today with different combinations out there.”
That was especially true in the fourth period, with Benet scoring the first five points and beginning to dominate behind the 5-foot-10 Prasse, who scored 12 points, including going 8-for-8 from the free-throw line.
By the time Benet had closed to within 58-52 with 37.8 seconds left, Byrne had reinserted her starters to help quell the comeback effort.
“We should have beaten them by a lot, but we kept letting them shoot,” Millender said. “We just have to talk more on defense.”