As the Magnificat High School basketball team could be heard singing “This Little Light of Mine” in the locker room Wednesday night, it was clear how much its win over rival Saint Joseph Academy meant.
For nearly all 32 minutes, both the Blue Streaks and the host Jaguars traded runs in an early-season rivalry matchup. Coming out for the final eight minutes, though, Magnificat began the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to go up 48-37, the largest lead of the night for either team.
Tough defense and clutch free throws to end the game held off a late Jaguar push and secured a 56-49 victory for the Blue Streaks.
“Saint Joe’s did a really nice job executing what they wanted to do and made us adjust to a style that we’re not used to,” Magnificat coach Danny Gallagher said. “It was kind of the first time that we’ve faced adversity and turned the other way to come back.”
After a slow first quarter that the Jaguars led 7-6, the Blue Streaks (4-2) clicked into gear in the second and trailed by just three at halftime, 23-20. Sophomore guard Ella Neitzel had 18 points at the first half for the Jaguars (2-3, 1-0 North Coast League) while seven different players scored for Magnificat.
In the second half, the Blue Streaks used stingy defense and strong rebounding to not only survive SJA runs, but create runs of their own. The Jaguars out-rebounded Magnificat 29-28, but the Streaks held a 14-9 advantage on the offensive glass, converting on many of those second and third chances.
Though Magnificat turned the ball over 20 times, Saint Joseph only had seven steals. The Blue Streaks defense forced 28 turnovers (19 steals). Magnificat also shut down Neitzel in the second half, allowing her just five points on three attempts.
In her stead, junior guards Gab Schafer (10 points, seven rebounds and two steals) and Charlotte Adler (five points, six rebounds) combined for 13 second-half points for the Jaguars.
“In the second half, it was more about getting settled,” Magnificat senior guard Ailish Chambers said. “We had a lot of mental errors in the first half. Our turnovers were mental mistakes, they weren’t forced.”
With 3:30 left, SJA went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 48-43. Forced to foul and send the Blue Streaks to the free-throw line in an effort to get back into the game, senior guard Ailish Chambers didn’t falter, knocking down four of six free throws in the final minutes to secure the victory.
“This senior class is so experienced and they’ve been in this moment so many times,” Gallagher said. “For (Chambers), we tracked every free throw we shoot in practice and she went 24-for-24. She’s the ultimate competitor.”
Chambers finished with a 12-point, 12-rebound double-double, leading all Blue Streak scorers. Behind her was her sister, junior guard Clare Chambers (eight points) and senior guard Annaleise Lozada and sophomore post Mollie Laspisa, each with seven points. Laspisa also had a team-high five steals.
Despite the loss, Jaguars coach A.J. Hyland is still optimistic about the potential his team has for the rest of the season.
“I really was proud of how we fought,” Hyland said. “We let a little bit get away in the beginning of the fourth and let Mags get a run. They did a great job putting pressure on us. We have to take care of our own business and start taking care of the ball a little bit better and we’ll be fine.”
The Jaguars are back in action Saturday against Akron Archbishop Hoban.
Magnificat’s win snapped a brief two-game losing streak for the Blue Streaks against tough Archbishop Hoban and Notre Dame Academy teams. Next up, they have back-to-back home games against St. Vincent-St. Mary at 7:00 p.m. Monday and Wadsworth at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21.
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