Photo by Jeff Vorva
From left, Chicago Christian’s Janay Turner and Jill Van Dyke and Richards’ Lesly Villarreal eye a rebounding opportunity in a first-round game at the Bobby Bolton Classic.
As host Richards reeled off three wins to advance to the title game of the Bobby Bolton Classic, four different players scored in double figures — and all were seniors.
Saturday, the Bulldogs fell in the championship to Thornton, 50-39 — but the silver lining was in the performances of its younger players.
Junior point guard Jada Clayton came off the bench to lead Richards (3-1) with 15 points. Junior forward Lesly Villarreal didn’t see the court until the fourth quarter, yet managed eight points on four-of-four shooting. Freshman swingman Halle Idowu scored six and, with Clayton, helped settle the offense.
“Early on, we didn’t handle their pressure very well — I didn’t think it would bother us as much as it did,” Richards coach Jeff Kortz said. “They got up, we got down, and we couldn’t pull ourselves up. But our young guards got after it a little bit.”
Clayton, a 5-foot-3 dynamo, was happy for the opportunity.
Her three free throws in the final 3:09 of the first quarter accounted for the Bulldogs’ only points of the period as they slipped behind 13-3. She had three more points and Idowu four as Richards trimmed its deficit to 19-14 at the half. And though Thornton (4-0) pulled away in the second half behind Maya Robinson (15 points) and Brea Blackwell (11), Clayton’s seven points and ability to find Villarreal for easy buckets nearly halved what had been a 21-point deficit with five minutes to play.
“I feel like I just stepped up and proved myself,” Clayton said.
After committing eight turnovers in the first quarter, Richards took better care of the ball the rest of the way, finishing with 24.
“Being a fast point guard, that’s a big thing for me,” Clayton said. “Getting through people is my biggest strength.
“I definitely learned a lot from our seniors. I feel like that’s where I get my game from — Stepanie Eklund, Jailyn Wilks, Shannon Meegan — definitely.”
Thornton won the Bolton title for the first time coach Erin Wright’s six seasons at the helm. The Wildcats’ 4-0 start is their best “in at least 10 years,” she said.
Taylor Ivory had five points and a team-high five rebounds for Richards. She also had 10 points in Richards’ second-round win over T.F. South.
Wilkes led Richards with 13 points and Davianna Jones added 12 in its opening win over Chicago Christian. Meegan led the Bulldogs in scoring in their next two wins, with 11 and 12 points, respectively.
“Four games in four days, some people were just beat,” Kortz said. “But we came out 3-1. I thought we played very well in two games, and in the two other games we found some things we need to work on — and we will.
“This is a good group. They play very hard and they practice very hard.”
Chicago Christian 38, Kankakee 29: Lexi van Ryn had 15 points, Janay Turner eight and Ciara Randle El five as the Knights (3-1) captured the third-place game.
Oak Lawn 64, Thornwood 42: Madelyn McGrath’s 27 points paced the Spartans (2-3) in the fifth-place game.
Milestones and wins for Pride
Queen of Peace opened the season on Nov. 15 with a 65-37 victory over Oak Lawn and senior guard Kara Shimko became the third player in Pride history to eclipse the 1,000-point mark.
The Pride kept on winning the rest of the week with four victories in the Beecher Tournament to reach the title game.
Through five games, Shimko is averaging 17 points per game, teammate Ashley Lynch is averaging 10 rebounds per game and Jovanna Martinucci lead with 30 assists and 28 steals.
--Sports editor Jeff Vorva contributed to this report