By Randy Whalen
For the Bugle
The Romeoville girls basketball team hopes the “rollercoaster” continues to head upwards as the postseason approaches.
In a matchup of two Southwest Prairie Conference teams looking for a victory the Spartans outlasted Joliet Central 48-41 on Tuesday, Jan. 24 in Joliet.
Brittany Osborne (13 points, 7 steals , 5 rebounds) had 11 points in the second half to lead the Spartans (10-13, 4-6). Joliet Central (6-14, 1-9) was paced by a game-high 14 points and 15 rebounds from sophomore guard Shawton Brown, who had 12 points in the fourth quarter.
“It’s been a rollercoaster ride,” Romeoville coach Julio Carrasco said of the season. “Yet we still gained double digit wins [with the victory over the Steelmen] and that’s with starting two freshmen. We’ve started three freshmen at times this season. We want to turn that corner and we hope this [victory over Joliet Central] was it.”
Romeoville led 17-11 at halftime, but the Steelmen quickly cut the lead to 17-15 on a Brown free throw and a 3-pointer by junior guard Deericka Martin (6 points) with 6:24 left in the third quarter. But 46 seconds later Osborne converted a turnover into a layup.
That started a 15-2 blitz the rest of the quarter for a 32-17 lead after three. Osborne, a junior guard had six points in the spurt and freshman guard Karina Ortiz (11 points) added five in the spurt.
“Brittany had four steals and Karina had six,” said Carasco of the third quarter alone, during which his squad forced 12 turnovers. “Our offense is predicated from the defensive side and we did a great job there.”
Those 12 turnovers were nearly half of the 25 the Steelmen made in the game. All of Romeoville’s points in the third quarter came on layups or free throws.
“It was a domino effect,” Osborne said of the third quarter. “One person makes a play and everyone does it. We just have to go up from here. We’re climbing the mountain, we just have to stay on top.”
Behind 35-18 with less than five minutes to play and still down 39-25 with 3:06 to play in the game, things looked grim for the Steelmen. But there was no quit in them as they went on a 9-1 run in a 58 second span to close within 40-34 on a 3-pointer by Martin with 1:42 remaining.
But they never got closer. Romeoville hit 6-of-10 free throws and Osborne had a steal and layup in the final 1:20 to help close it out.
Although they were on the losing end, the Steelmen certainly never quit, scoring 24 points in the fourth quarter, 23 of those in the final 4:57. Brown had 12 of those points. They defeated a highly regarded Bloom Township team 55-45 on Jan. 17, but haven’t won since.
“We missed so many layups and so many free throws to start,” Joliet Central coach Laura Brumfiel said. “The last few games we’ve struggled. We had layups and putback attempts and we have to convert.
“Give Romeoville credit too, but we were aggressive. In the fourth quarter we had two choices and we choose not to give up. We choose to play hard and play through it. That’s always the way Shawton Brown plays, all out and aggressive. We have a group of great kids and they are very coachable and play hard.”
Freshman post player Maria Picazo (9 points), and senior guards Alexis Marin (8 points) and Ayanna Shelby (5 points) contributed for Romeoville, which was 18-32 from the free throw line. Senior guard Tylena Hood (10 points) and sophomore forward Annette Hymon (8 points, 15 rebounds) did the same for the Steelmen, who held a huge 52-29 rebounding advantage.
The game started out extremely sloppy as each team had eight first quarter turnovers and combined to shoot 2-16 from the field. Joliet Central led 5-3 after one quarter.
“We’ve been struggling in the first half and not pushing ourselves,” Osborne said of the bad opening quarter. “We knew we were a better team, so we were able to step up [in the second quarter].”
The Steelmen scored four straight points to open the second quarter and led 9-3. An Osborne jumper with 6:26 left in the half, however, propelled Romeoville on a 14-2 spurt for the 17-11 halftime lead. Joliet Central was 2-12 from the free throw line in the first half before finishing 12-25 from the line in the game.
Both teams are in the Aurora East Sectional where play opens on Feb. 13.