The IHSA Class 3A girls basketball sectional title game between host Fenwick and Nazareth Academy turned out to be starkly different than last year's meeting at the very same stage of the playoffs.
Whereas last year's contest was high-scoring, the rematch was a physical, low-scoring affair in which players on both teams struggled to score.
Everyone except for Nazareth's Annie Stritzel. The senior star delivered a special performance, scoring 36 points to carry the Roadrunners past the Friars 46-37 in the Fenwick Sectional final.
It's the second consecutive year Nazareth (30-3) has defeated the Friars (23-12) for the sectional title.
"It's amazing. We knew this was going to be a tough one," Stritzel said after the game. "But it's not over until we get that state championship W. This is fun but I can't imagine how much more fun it's going to be next weekend."
Stritzel scored all 12 of Nazareth's points during a pivotal third quarter, while Fenwick scored just one - on a free throw by Audrey Hinrichs. The Roadrunners extended their 21-18 halftime lead to 33-19 after three quarters. The Friars would come no closer than four points the rest of the way.
Fenwick head coach Dave Power felt the third quarter was the pivotal moment of the contest.
"The third quarter really killed us," Power said. "It was reminiscent of last year (2018 sectional final) when our second quarter killed us. We came back hard at them in the fourth quarter, but with the hill we had to climb, we just couldn't quite get to the top."
The Friars opened the fourth quarter on a 7-2 spurt to cut the deficit to 35-26 which forced Nazareth coach Ed Stritzel to call a timeout. The host team's run continued to 15-5 as Fenwick pulled within four (38-34) midway through the fourth quarter.
"We gained our energy back and we really wanted it," Fenwick sophomore Lauren Hall said about the Friars' rally. "We played hard; it's a tough loss."
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Friars trailed 40-36 and gained possession after an offensive foul was called on Annie Stritzel. But with 1:40 left, Elise Heneghan missed an inside shot.
Annie Stritzel rebounded the ball and dribbled coast-to-coast for a critical layup. After that made basket Nazareth scored five of the game's final six points to secure the victory.
Nazareth point guard Jovanna Martinucci made a determined effort to get the ball to Stritzel.
Power praised his prized pair of first-year players.
"For them being young, to get to this level is a great experience. I think it's going to carry them well in the future," Power said. "The interesting thing is that they were bawling their eyes out because they wanted to win so badly for the seniors. They were just so happy with how they were embraced by them.
"So now their goal is to carry on the tradition, because (the seniors) have helped bring Fenwick back to where we're in the hunt for a state trophy every year."
Hall had seven points and Lily Reardon six for Fenwick.
Nazareth advances to the 3A supersectional on Monday night at Concordia University in River Forest. The Roadrunners face Lindblom, a 66-61 winner over Phillips in the De La Salle Sectional. The winner will move on to the 3A semifinals next weekend at Illinois State Redbird Arena.
Answer Book 2018
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