JCA’s defense had a larger purpose, however. The excellent 3-point shooting that West displayed in its 77-50 semifinal win over Providence two days earlier was not lost on Leonard and his staff.
“The coaches talked to me at halftime that I had to come out in the third quarter and be a spark. That’s what I did.”
“We’ve seen Morgan Park,” Leonard said. “They are very talented. We know we have to play our best game. But our girls are feeling fairly confident, and they should.”
JCA hit 15 of 27 shots in the first half, 8 of 14 from beyond the arc. The Angels finished 28 of 49 overall, 57.1 percent, as Farrell, Kaitlyn Williams and Acosta provided Ekhomu with plenty of offensive support. Farrell, in her third game back from a shoulder injury, hit 6 of 10 shots and 5 of 6 free throws for 18 points. Williams scored 12.
“Andrianna had a great second half,” he said. “She did a great job defensively. She took command. She was the turning point.”
“Three points count more than two,” he said, “and 3-pointers are momentum
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builders. Two-pointers, not as much. We knew that running out at their shooters would give 33 [O’Donnell] room to work, but we didn’t think they could score 70 points again without hitting a lot of threes.”
Courtney O’Donnell, West’s 5-foot-11 junior inside force, scored 24 points. But guard Emily Atsinger, who totaled 10, was the only other Warrior to reach double figures.
“That’s what we practiced, staying out on their shooters,” Acosta said.
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in foul trouble in the first half,” she said. “I picked up two silly ones and had to sit the rest of the half.
“It doesn’t matter what defense we see,” Ekhomu said. “Basically, teams can throw anything at us and we feel we are prepared.”
JCA coach Nick Leonard took notice.
“This is awesome, the best feeling in the world,” JCA senior guard Mia Farrell said. “We don’t have that great of a record, but if we play like we did tonight, especially in the second half, where we took care of the little things, we’re a good team.”
After JCA led 39-29 at halftime, Acosta fueled an 8-0 run that stretched the lead to 49-33 midway through the third quarter. A 6-0 run late in the quarter, with all six points coming from Farrell and Acosta, made it 57-38, and the Angels were on the verge of preparing for Morgan Park.
Acosta was a force defensively and scored all 11 of her points after the break to help the Joliet Catholic girls basketball team secure a 74-55 victory over Lincoln-Way West in the championship game of the Class 3A Providence Regional.
“It’s kind of a blessing for us to have a player like Nicole on our side,” Farrell said.
“There’s a reason she is a McDonald’s All-American,” Warriors coach Ryan White said of Ekhomu. “Nicole is hard to guard, and they have others who can score, too. We haven’t been a man team all year, so we thought the zone was our best chance.”
Acosta picked up her second foul with 4:48 left in the first quarter and went to the bench. The Angels worked their way into a 39-29 halftime lead behind Nicole Ekhomu, who scored 20 of her 26 points in the first half. Ekhomu was 8 of 11 from the floor in the first 16 minutes, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range against the zone defense of Lincoln-Way West (20-7).
“O’Donnell is skilled around the basket,” White said. “She’s crafty with her body.”
The final turnover count was virtually even, with West committing 17 and JCA 16. However, the Angels converted Warriors turnovers into points with regularity.
“The playoffs are interesting,” Acosta said. “Any team can win at any time. They [Mustangs] have a good record and are ranked, but it’s all going to come down to who comes and plays. That’s who will walk out of the gym with the win.”
NEW LENOX – Senior forward Andrianna Acosta had little to show for her first half Friday night.
In the third quarter, however, her competitiveness came to the fore.
“It seemed like when we would miss or turn it over, they would score,” White said. “You can’t give a team like that free baskets, or you’re not going to be able to match them at the end of the game.”
The result is a matchup for the Angels (17-8) against highly regarded and talented Morgan Park in the 6 p.m. Monday semifinal at the Peotone Sectional.