Coming out the locker room to start the third, Magnificat’s Claire Chambers delivered that momentum in spades. The junior co-captain knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers and sparked a 10-0 run that created enough separation for secure a 61-49 victory, the team’s second over SJA this season.
“We were just really slow in the first (half) none of our shots were really falling,” said Chambers, who finished with nine points and five rebounds. “I think (the quick start to the third quarter) was key for us pulling away. We just took the momentum and we ran with it all the way up until the fourth quarter. That run was really important because, otherwise, it would have been a close game until the end.”
Magnificat (14-4) outscored SJA 22-14 in the third quarter and took a 47-32 lead into the fourth quarter. A big reason for their lead and success throughout the game was the Blue Streaks’ defense. They swiped 20 steals total and forced five more Jaguar turnovers. In the third quarter alone, the Blue Streaks had six steals and a block.
“That’s our style,” Magnificat coach Danny Gallagher said. “We wanted to turn (the Jaguars) into ballhandlers all game. They did a nice job setting in in the second half and starting to break our pressure, but we knew if we could get to them early and get a lead that we would wear them down.”
The Jaguars chipped away at Magnificat’s lead in the fourth quarter, getting it down to as little as 47-40 with under five minutes left. With the Blue Streaks already in the bonus, however, SJA was forced to foul in the closing minutes and Magnificat sealed the game from the free throw line.
Following Chambers’ quick start to the second half, senior co-captain Brenna Varga rebounded from a three-point first half and added 12 in the second half. She added six steals to go along with her 15 points.
“In those first three minutes (of the second half) I think I had a 3-pointer and then we just started rolling,” Varga said. “Our pressure on our press really helped us because we got a bunch of steals and it just got us going.”
Gallagher praised Varga’s intensity in the second half, saying, “When she gets in attack mode, she’s as good of a scorer as we have. She can score in three different ways, she can put the ball on the floor, make pull up jumpers and she’s a great shooter. She’s tough to guard. When you have someone like that, you gotta ride ‘em when they’re hot.”
Behind Varga’s team-leading output, two other Blue Streaks finished with double-digit scoring. Senior Ailish Chambers and sophomore Molly Laspisa each had 10 points, adding three and five rebounds respectively. Senior co-captain Isabella Comer had just four points but contributed two assists, four rebounds and six steals as well.
The loss marks the fifth consecutive for the Jaguars. Saint Joseph (7-10, 4-3 North Coast League) had output from familiar faces as sophomore Ava Haddad had 16 points – 14 in the second half – and seven rebounds, junior Charlotte Adler had 11 and nine rebounds and sophomore Ella Neitzel had eight and seven rebounds.
Following an 85-61 loss to Laurel School on Jan. 22 that snapped a six-game winning streak, Gallagher said that while this win was sweet, he and the team have their eyes on the playoffs. Magnificat plays Maumee Valley Day Country School at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at home.
“Now we have an opportunity in front of us that I think we’ll get the No. 1 seed in the district,” Gallagher said. “We have to tighten stuff up before we get to that point. It’s stressing those things, getting better at the little things. We have to go to work. We’ve got two weeks to be ready for that.”
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