Girls Basketball: Romeoville puts away stubborn Rich EastRosalinda Vazquez, of Romeoville, moves the ball against Rich East at Oak Lawn High School Girls Holiday Tournament, Saturday, December 17th, 2011 in Oak Lawn, IL. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 17, 2011 7:50PM
Two times Romeoville tried to run away from Rich East Saturday in an opening day battle at the Oak Lawn Varsity Girls Holiday Tournament, and both time the Rockets came storming back.
Finally, a third-quarter knockout punch allowed the defending tourney champions to pull away for good and claim a 69-55 victory.
Sophomore Kiera Currie led the way for Romeoville (8-1) with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Abigail Smith added 12 points and six rebounds and Brianna Harris eight points.
Danielle King (29 points) and Makeba Elliott (10 points, 5 rebounds) paced Rich East (9-4).
The Spartans bounced back nicely from their first loss of the season on Friday, a 68-65 decision to Oswego East.
“Other people asked us how did we feel, how would we recoup from the loss,” Smith said. “People always doubt us when we lose, so we just come back and we have ourselves to pick ourselves up. We were all there for each other. Now we’re trying to win this tournament.”
The Spartans trailed just once, at 5-3 after a 3-point basket for Rich East by Elliott. A 9-0 run featuring a pair of 3-pointers by Tiffany Rekart and Smith turned the momentum around, before the Rockets pushed back and pulled into a 16-all tie.
Romeoville went on a 14-0 run from there as Currie began to dominate, but Rich East responded with a 10-2 flurry in the final 1:42 of the first half to get back within six.
The Rockets would have been even closer had they not shot 2-for-10 at the free-throw line.
“That’s been our demon for the year,” Rich East coach Jonnie Bass said. “We just can’t put the free throws down, and it hurts us.”
The Rockets were also reticent to shoot the ball from the outside against Romeoville’s 1-3-1 defense. The Spartans, meanwhile, drew coach Julio Carrasco’s ire for not attacking enough.
“I don’t think we were shy, it’s just that we rely on our outside shot when it comes to 2-3 (defenses),” Smith said. “We need to break that habit. Each game we’re getting a little closer, and we’re looking in the middle more.”
Currie got the ball early and often during the third period. Her nine points, all from close in, resulted in a double digits lead that the Spartans would maintain the rest of the way.
“We need to work on being consistent the whole game,” Currie said. “If we come out slow, we’re not always going to be able to come back. We have to come out strong and just go out there and hustle.”
Oak Lawn 71, Evergreen Park 26: LaTondra Books tallied 15 points, Gina Baldea 10 and Eliana LaSpina nine for Oak Lawn (6-4).
Lincoln-Way North 44, De La Salle 42: Stephanie Pearson (8 points), Leigh Larocco (8 points) and Sam Pietruszynski (7 points) helped Lincoln-Way North (7-2) prevail.
Richards 45, Simeon 27: Brianna LeBeau’s 13 points was tops for Richards (6-3).