November 25, 2013

Chicago comfortable in victory over Spartans

The Maroons (3–1) faced the Manchester Spartans (1–2) in front of a raucous home crowd at a Saturday afternoon game, in which they took a sizeable lead in the second half to pull away to an 80–61 victory.

Both teams initially struggled to put their stamp of authority on the game. Early on, the Maroons didn’t shoot as effectively as they had in their first three games, but nonetheless managed to make life difficult for the Spartan offense, forcing nine steals in the first half and limiting Manchester to low percentage shots. Dynamic play by third-year guard Morgan Donovan on a fast-break layup sparked an 8–0 run about halfway through the first half, while excellent offensive hustle extended the possession on several occasions, in one instance allowing fourth-year Julie Muguira to drain a three-pointer to open up a 21–15 lead.

The final two minutes of the half were frenetic, as the Maroon lead evaporated after Manchester’s Katie Arterburn scored eight points from a five-point play and a deep three-pointer to even the game at 33 apiece. However, the Maroons responded extremely well, capitalizing on Manchester turnovers to score nine points in quick succession and take a 42–35 lead into the locker room.

The second half began auspiciously for Chicago, as a three-pointer by Muguira created a double-digit lead that the Maroons maintained for the rest of the game. Though their performance was by no means flawless, as evidenced by a count of 25 turnovers, the Maroons dominated their opposition in points off turnovers, rebounding, and ruthless execution from the foul line, converting 87 percent of their free throws. Their defensive display was reminiscent of their performances in last week’s home tournament: The Maroons always seemed to find the right position to force a deflection, block, or make a steal leading to a cavaliering transition at the other end, which was one major success noted by head coach Carissa Sain Knoche.

“We were able to get some more things going offensively just by playing hard. We got to loose balls, battled for offensive rebounds, and made plays just with our effort,” she said.

Donovan, who led the Maroon offense with 15 points and four assists, believes that the next few games will be crucial. “After a 3–1 [record], the team morale is pretty good, but we know we have a lot to work on with an extremely important and tough stretch of games coming up,” she said.

“While we have some ways to go, we are confident that we can turn this into a great season. We work to get better every day, and really push ourselves and each other at practice so that we can become the great team we have the potential to be,” first-year Stephanie Anderson said. Anderson contributed seven points and a team-leading eight rebounds.

Next Sunday at 1 p.m., the Maroons will return to Ratner in a game against the Carthage Lady Reds (3–1).