Saturday’s Chicagoland Invitational Showcase at Fremd featured ten of the top teams in the state of Illinois and the top team in both the states of Wisconsin and Indiana. Fortunately for fans of girls basketball it also features up and coming teams in the area.
Although Nazareth and Lake Zurich are unranked the contest between them gave fans a preview of something to look forward to in the coming years. In a game that was close for three quarters, the Lady Roadrunners of Nazareth (6-1) used a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter to defeat the Lake Zurich Lady Bears 48-41 handing them their second loss of the season.
Lake Zurich opened the game behind senior guard Margueret Spear, who scored the first 8 points with a couple of deep three pointers versus the aggressive 2-3 Nazareth defense. Keeping Nazareth in the game early was junior Justina Hernandez who converted on two traditional three point plays and added three rebounds before a late three pointer by Lake Zurich sophomore Alayna Soukup gave the Bears a 15-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Trailing 18-11 in the second quarter, Nazareth gave a preview of their potential with a 10-0 run behind great team play and some excellent sharing of the basketball to bring the game level
Nazareth caught fire after half time behind senior guard and Loyola commit Kaylen Evans.
Evans, who struggled in the first half, scored 8 points in a row, including two three pointers to keep the Roadrunners within reach
“Coach [Chris] Bennett did a great job putting Ella Glibertson on her in the first half, all that size bothered her,” said Nazareth head coach Eddie Stritzel. “We took her off the point in the second half and it gave Kaylen a lot of looks,”
During the 3rd quarter run, Coach Stritzel and his staff also decided to make the defensive change to man to limit the long distance looks for Lake Zurich.
“We were worried because they started to hi low us and their kids hit a couple (threes). We thought by going man that they would try to run clock on us and shorten the game, but you never know and it ended up winning the game for us,” said Strizel.
Nazareth built on that late third quarter run to open up a 44-30 lead early in the fourth. During the run Nazareth’s Hernandez showed why she is one of the rising stars in the area with her transition game.
“She is a pure athlete,” said Stritzel, “the colleges are starting to see how good she is. She played out of position at her former school now she is playing her natural position and she is a matchup problem. She is just going to get better and better.” .
Though Lake Zurich made a run of it late, Nazareth played well enough in the final minutes to secure the 48-41 victory.
Nazareth was led in scoring by Evans and Hernandez with 14 a piece. Lake Zurich was led by Margueret Spear with 14 and Alana Soukup with 13.
Despite the loss, Lake Zurich is a team to watch in the future as five of their top seven players include four sophomores and a freshman. As for Nazareth their future looks bright as well as they start two freshmen who played most of the game.
Stritzel concluded: “I like being underrated, our last two years everyone knew about us, no one knows about us and I like that. I like where this team is at right now, we are getting better every day”
Lake Zurich returns to play on Tuesday with a home game vs. Hampshire. Nazareth has little time off as they play again on Sunday at 3:30 PM vs. St. Ignatius as part of the ESCC/GCAC crossover.