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Mooseheart sophomore Abi Alade (left) works against Elgin Academy's Kaitlyn Pearson in the second half. Alade scored four points for Mooseheart.
Mooseheart senior Rocio Sanchez dribbles past Elgin Academy's Liz Huerta. Sanchez scored five points for the Ramblers.
MOOSEHEART, IL Dec. 6 – In low-scoring basketball contests, every point is magnified to a level well beyond its normal worth.
And that was the case at Mooseheart on Friday, where Elgin Academy clawed a 31-28 victory, getting just enough timely scoring on a night when neither team scored with any sort of consistency.
When they hit a rally at just the right time in the final quarter, Mooseheart (0-6) found itself back in the contest, though the visiting Hilltoppers got key scoring to salvage the victory.
The win was as close as Mooseheart has come to victory since the 2011-12 season.
"It was a game of emotion from our standpoint," Mooseheart coach Bryan Miller said. "We wanted to stay close, keep our emotions in check and be fundamental. We didn't want to get too caught up in the atmosphere of the game and we gave ourselves a chance to win."
Having finished last season winless and with only seven roster players, Mooseheart's players haven't been in a taut contest in some time, and the inexperience showed.
"This game presented to us a lot of teaching moments about the game," Miller said. "We talked that down the stretch, situational basketball, that's what's involved. That's what this game presented to us and that's what we can build on. If we do come into another situation like that, we will be more competitive in it."
Leading 17-16 at halftime thanks to 10 first-half points by Kaitlyn Pearson, Elgin Academy surged in the third quarter to open a 28-21 lead. Key were seven of Susie Cain's game-high points. Against that. Mooseheart managed just four points, a basket by Kami Kolb and a pair of Hannah Tucker free throws.
But as the game had not seen tremendous scoring to that point, the Ramblers were still poised to rally, and started a comeback with an Abi Alade basket. A three-pointer by Rocio Sanchez came shortly after, and the lead was 30-26. Lizzie Clements hit a free throw for Elgin Academy but then Jade Sanni scored the last of her team-high six points and the margin was only three points with 1:15 to play.
Neither team was able to score the rest of the way and Elgin Academy survived.
In all, seven Mooseheart players scored in the defeat.
"In a couple of practices we've had since our last game, we really focused on attacking the basket and shooting the basketball," Miller said. "We want to put ourselves in position to score. Granted we were at least 0-for-10 in the opening four or five minutes of the game. But we took good shots."
Elgin Academy jumped to an 8-0 lead in that opening quarter while Mooseheart struggled to find its offensive touch. But Mooseheart still rallied to trail only 12-6 entering the second quarter. Mooseheart even forged a 17-14 lead midway through the second quarter before the Hilltoppers took a halftime lead – an advantage they never surrendered.
Elgin Academy 12 6 10 3 - 31
Mooseheart 6 11 4 7 - 28