By Randy Whalen
Oak Lawn wants to continue its recent stretch of good play as the postseason nears. Shepard wants to continue to get better each time on the floor as it builds toward the future.
Both teams found what they were looking for when they met in a South Suburban Red Conference matchup on Jan. 23 in Palos Heights.
The Spartans’ Reagan Cameron poured in a game-high 19 points and Mia Kennelly added 13 points and five rebounds as Oak Lawn topped the Astros 50-36 for its fourth win in five games.
It was the second big conference win of the week for the Spartans (13-11, 6-4), and the third time this season they defeated Shepard (6-18, 3-7).
The Spartans had 14 assists on 20 made field goals and shot 7-for-14 from 3-point range and 13-for-24 from inside the arc,
"We played well and executed our game plan," Oak Lawn coach Mark Sevedge said. “We shot the ball well, moved the ball well and had good spacing on the floor. Winning games like these adds to our resume."
Cameron, a senior guard, scored the first four points of a game in which the Spartans never trailed. Ahead 4-3, Cameron sank a pair of 3-pointers as Oak Lawn scored the next eight points for a 12-3 lead.
Cameron had 10 points in the first, after which the Spartans led 17-6, but her concern was getting a win more than piling up stats. She likes how the team has been playing lately.
"It's just the win that I'm concerned about,"she said. "It's all in the moment. I don't plan out what I'm going to do, I just go do it. In the last couple of weeks, the team has really bonded together. We are building toward the playoffs"
Oak Lawn led 26-14 at halftime, with Cameron contributing 14 of those points. Kennelly, a sophomore guard who was out from Nov. 22 until Jan. 7 with a left knee injury, had seven points.
The score never got closer in the second half. The Spartans led 41-24 after three and by as many as 21 in the fourth quarter. The Astros played hard until the end and finished the game on a 9-2 burst, but it wasn't nearly enough.
Oak Lawn senior forward Julia Janks had seven points and Sarah Saleh finished with four points and six rebounds.
A trio of sophomore guards -- Gianna Spain (14 points), Ashley Marek (seven points) and Kelly Greene (five points) – along with senior forward Mackenzie Jasudowicz (three points, 10 rebounds) led the way for the Astros. Jasudowicz is the only senior starter for Shepard.
The only other senior on the young Astros’ roster is Danielle DeLosSantos, who has been out with a high ankle sprain. She was scheduled to get her orthopedic boot removed this week and should be ready to play in the postseason, said Shepard coach Ric Gamino
Gamino met with every one of his players individually after the game. The Astros’ six wins are not the result of a lack of effort.
"This team does not give up," Gamino said. "That's something they always do – compete until the end. This is a very positive group, a great group. We pride ourselves on defense and we also did a good job on moving the ball and trying to get an open shot."
Shepard traveled to Burbank on Jan. 21 and lost 46-37 to Reavis (9-12, 3-6) in another SSC Red game.
That same day, the Spartans traveled to Oak Lawn and defeated crosstown rival Richards (15-8, 4-3 SSC) 50-43 in an SSC Red matchup. Cameron and Kennelly each had 12 points and Saleh scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
"Both of these games were on the road," Sevedge noted of the Richards and Shepard wins. "Richards is a big team and winning games like that shows that our team has come together."
Oak Lawn hosted Sandburg Jan. 25 and lost by the score of 54-44 in a hard-fought nonconference clash.
The Spartans led 39-38 after three quarters, but Sandburg (16-7) closed the game with a 16-5 fourth quarter. Cameron poured in 23 points and Kennelly contributed 13.
"We were up by one going into the fourth quarter and just ran out of gas," Sevedge said of the Sandburg game. "Credit goes to Sandburg for making the big plays in the fourth quarter to take over the game."