The varsity girls’ basketball team fell to conference rival Plainfield East 51-47 in a home game on Tuesday.
Ahead of the game, the team’s spirits were a bit low according to junior guard Alexia Pelligrino, following a tough loss to Neuqua Valley in a close 49-47 game.
“Our practices just keep getting more intense, they need to be since all of our upcoming games are going to be really close like the Nequa game,” Pelligrino said.
Although the team is coming back from some tough losses, players shared the sentiment that perseverance is what the team needs this late in the season as they face the 7-4 Bengals who are on a three-game winning streak.
“We’re 5-5 in conference right now,” junior guard Riley Doggett said in the hours leading up to the game. “We just need to push and give it all we have and I know we could be successful.”
Doggett was unable to play due to sickness, putting the team down one of their key players. The loss, like the game itself, would be palpable.
The need to dig deep and play hard was dually expressed by senior Katie Jorgenson, one of the vital leaders on the team.
“Our team gets along great and we have a lot of positive energy, our goal is just to come out strong and get a win to put us ahead for the postseason,” Jorgenson said.
The game kicked off with Plainfield East gaining possession of the ball and quickly putting up two points. The Wolves were quickly able to return and put up back-to-back layups by senior guard Madalyn Stockley and senior guard Cydnei Mitchell.
“We were down a couple of players so the girls that were left had to perform,” Stockley said.
Without key players like Riley Doggett and Caley Layman, who were out with injury and sickness, the girls were still able to run a familiar lineup.
“We’re all trained and prepared to play,” Pelligrino said. “We practice different lineups at practice so we feel ready.”
Despite four free-throw points put up by Stockley and freshman point guard Maggie Lewandowski, the Wolves still found themselves down a point. That was until six-foot sophomore Ava Valek sank a layup to put the Wolves up 12-11 at the end of the first.
To start the second, Jorgenson extended the Wolves’ lead to 14-11, which was quickly made tight again by the Bengals who returned with two points of their own.
The close nature of the game continued with the Wolves closing out the first half with a 25-24 lead.
“At the half, we knew we had to keep the game close and our errors down if we wanted to win,” Jorgenson said.
To start the second half the Wolves extended their lead by two to put them ahead of the Plainfield East girls, an advantage that grew when senior Angela Ruiz put up two more points. The Bengals quickly took back possession of the game that was again returned by Lewandowski to keep the game tied.
In a game dominated by tough defense and low scoring, neither teams were able to hold more than a two-point lead, leaving the third quarter to end with a tie at 36-36.
Sophomore Cami Philips started the fourth quarter with a layup that was quickly contested by Plainfield East putting the game at 38-38. Phillips continued her scoring run with four more points to give the wolves their biggest lead of the game at 42-38. Phillips’s aid to the team was noted by head coach Abe Carretto.
“Cami came in when we needed her, I just told her to keep going,” Carretto said.
By midway in the fourth, the game lived up to the intensity from the beginning of the game, the physicality displayed by both the Wolves and Bengals was apparent but the Bengals excelled in scoring late in the game, allowing them to lead 49-45 with only a little more than a minute left in the game.
Despite the Bengals’ lead, Phillips was still able to put up two points to put the Wolves back in the game.
Two more free throws by the Bengals secured their victory with a final score of 51-47.
“There wasn’t much left we could do,” Carretto said, “We played hard, we just need to work on scoring when it counts.”
The Wolves will take to the road to face West Aurora on Wednesday night for their next conference game.
Samantha Trujillo is a staff writer for Oswego East high school’s online news magazine The Howl