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In the opener for both teams, East Aurora and St. Joseph had to make some adjustments to the new tight officiating emphasized this season.
It was the more veteran team, St. Joseph, that adjusted quickest Thursday in the Chargers’ 93-38 win in the first game of the Willowbrook Lady Warriors Thanksgiving Invite.
St. Joseph was in the double bonus halfway through the first quarter, and the Chargers only committed one foul to that point. That led to a 26-13 advantage after one quarter, and St. Joseph never looked back.
“The new rules, we have to make an adjustment,” first-year East Aurora coach Lee Clayborn said. “That didn’t decide the game. We’re young. It’s a big adjustment. The hand check is called quickly. It’s our first game and we’ll learn from it.”
The Chargers played 10 girls, and they rotated in and out as separate units, which helped balance the scoring. The lead was 48-18 at the half, but sophomore Elise Estelle and senior Kietta Saunders tied eight points in the half.
“I have a lot of players back,” St. Joseph coach Jim Maley said. “We have 10 back and five started at one point or another last year. We’re hoping the experience will do us some good. Early [on], the experience helped us out.”
A dominant stretch that started in the second quarter and extended until deep into the third quarter helped St. Joseph take command.
The lead stood at 28-15 early in the second quarter. Then the Chargers went on a 35-3 run that encompassed more than a quarter to push the lead to 63-18.
“I’m pleased with the way they played, with intensity the whole way,” Maley said. “We played 10 pretty much the whole game and each group that went in played well.”
Despite the emphasis on calling fouls when a defender’s hands touch the offensive player, Maley said he is not going to stop St. Joseph’s aggressive style.
“We want to press,” Maley said. “We plan on pressing the whole game. These girls have spent two hours a day like this [with their hands back] for the past three weeks. They slide and work specifically on no hand-checking.”
Estelle led the Chargers with 18 points. Senior Chanel Brown, an all-tournament selection last year, scored 17, Saunders scored 15 and senior Deja Horn added 12. East Aurora was paced by 13 points from Aracely Cepeda.
“Right now, when we get back to practice, we’re going to work on defense,” Clayborn said.