Photo by Jeff Vorva
Sandburg’s Erin Greenfield (left) collides with Stagg’s Sydney Downs as the two wrestle for the ball Thursday night in Orland Park. Stagg ended up winning the District 230 rivalry game, 43-41.
There were times when the bus rides home were quiet.
There were times the Stagg girls basketball players came back to Palos Heights after suffering blowout losses or heartbreakers as they compiled records of 3-25 and 11-17 in the past two seasons with a host of underclassmen getting a chunk of playing time.
But they never got discouraged.
“We never got down on ourselves – we always thought about the next game,” senior Jaime Ryan said. “We were looking for when our time would come.’’
That time has arrived.
The Chargers opened the season with a 7-2 mark, which included a thrilling 43-41 victory over District 230 rival Sandburg Thursday in Orland Park to open the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue season.
Ryan (16 points), junior Nicole Vacha and Sydney Downs came up with big baskets and free throws in the closing minutes of the game to preserve the victory.
“It’s a lot of fun for them,” Chargers coach Bill Turner said. “The experience that we have now is paying off from the two earlier years when we did take our lumps. They think this is their year. It’s a good feeling.’’
In the past, there were times when things just wouldn’t go right for that Chargers. But in crunch time against the Eagles (5-4 after Saturday’s opening round-win at the Oak Lawn Tournament) shots fell, including an awkward-looking off-balance inside basket by Vacha. She wanted to execute a reverse layup but stopped in the middle of her follow through.
“Sometimes I get yelled at when I do a reverse,” Vacha said. “So I stopped and threw it up there.’’
The Chargers opened up with a 60-24 home win over Tinley Park and played eight straight on the road. They were scheduled to play Tuesday night against Oak Lawn in Palos Hills. Their only losses were to Lincoln-Way Central (46-32) and Andrew (65-55).
Some Sandburg players were tearful after the game. While it is an early-season game and the two teams will play again Jan. 22 at Stagg, this was still an emotional encounter.
“This team competes, plays hard and wants to win and that’s the emotion that you want to see,” Sandburg coach Nick Fotopoulos said. “It’s a big rivalry game and there are a lot of emotions in the game.’’
The team has been battling with the loss of guard Morgan McAuliffe, who suffered a knee injury earlier in the season. Against the Chargers, the Eagles had a balanced scoring attack with Natalie Stavropoulos leading the way with nine points.