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Second-half rally lifts Rich South over Joliet Catholic

Defense wins championships, and Rich South has its eye on the prize.Down 11 points in the second quarter and nine points midway through the third, No. 5 Rich South used a 25-8 run over a seven-minute span of the second half to defeat Joliet Catholic for the second time this season, 71-57, Monday in Joliet.The Stars (6-0), who trailed 39-31 with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter and 46-43 to start the fourth, opened the fourth quarter with nine unanswered points. Joliet Catholic (4-3) never recovered.“We knew we had to come out and play defense,” Rich South’s Tierney Lockett said. “That was the only way we were going to get back into the game. They were outplaying us in the first half, getting offensive rebounds, going back up. So at halftime we knew we had to come back out and play as hard as we possibly could.”Rich South got off to a good start, grabbing an 8-2 lead on a breakaway basket by Tierra Webb just over two minutes into the game. But Joliet Catholic closed the first quarter on an 11-2 run and opened the second on a 15-5 run to enjoy its biggest lead at 28-17 with 2:40 remaining before halftime.The Angels hit three 3-pointers during the second quarter, one from freshman Tsimba Malonga and two from sophomore Kennedy Wieght (10 points), whose second shot from the deep right corner glanced off the glass and banked in.But Rich South rallied late, closing the first half on a 9-3 run to pull within 31-26 at the break.The Angels kept the Stars close by converting just 5 of 16 attempts from the free-throw line in the first half. Overall, Joliet Catholic made just 18 of 37 free-throw attempts.“We normally shoot free throws well,” Joliet Catholic coach Kenny Battle said. “We shoot a lot of free throws every day in practice and these are the rims we practice on. If we were on the road, OK, I can understand.“Free throws are mental. If you miss the first one, you have to be able to block it out, and tonight we didn’t do a good job.”Lockett led Rich South with 27 points. Evans added 15 points and Webb finished with 12 points despite battling foul trouble.“There was a lot of fouling, but we just had to play through the fouls,” said Evans, who finished with four fouls but managed to avoid an early exit.Andriana Acosta had 15 points and Ty Battle added 12 for Joliet Catholic, which hopes to have Nicole Ekhomu back from injury within the next few weeks.“Nicole is our leader,” Kenny Battle said. “She’s a scorer, she plays defense, she gets a lot of rebounds for a guard. So when you’re losing someone who can give you 20 points a night, seven or eight rebounds, three or four blocks, it hurts.”Lockett said the key to the Stars’ continuing success is humility.“The main thing we try to do is not get big-headed that we’re undefeated,” she said. “This is basketball. Anybody can lose. Being humble is the main thing.”