Playing with backcourt mate Alyssa Jurges the past two years, Providence’s Alex Shermulis can appreciate what the sophomore goes through in her second year on the varsity.
A three-year varsity player herself, Shermulis knows the lumps an underclassman can take at the varsity level.
“We’ve just clicked really well since she was a freshman,” Shermulis said. “She’s a good player, so I try to make her feel as comfortable as I can. She should be playing and taking those shots.”
Opening the 3A playoffs Monday night in a Coal City Regional quarterfinal, Shermulis (8 assists, 3 steals) and Jurges scored 15 points apiece in Providence’s 51-33 win over Morris.
The Celtics (14-17) will play Joliet Catholic in a semifinal at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“The girls have welcomed me in like family, so it was an easy transition,” Jurges said. “I feel older because I have that experience with them.”
Shermulis carried the load in the first half, scoring or assisting on 12 of Providence’s 14 baskets. The Celtics’ 12-0 run to start the second quarter gave them a 29-13 lead.
“I was just trying to prepare for (Tuesday),” Shermulis said. “I tried to find people whenever they were open because that’s what we’ll have to do (Tuesday).”
A scrappy Morris team cut the deficit to six points early in the third period on a Jessica Ponce layup, but Jurges in response engineered a run of her own. The sophomore scored on a back cut on a pass from Shermulis, hit a pull-up jumper on a fast break and drilled a three-pointer from the wing as part of a 9-0 Celtics run.
“You’ve got to keep shooting even when you’re missing,” Jurges said. “Hopefully, they’ll fall, and they did (Monday).”
Morris (6-21) scored seven second-half points, finishing 11-of-33 from the field with 23 turnovers.
“We just couldn’t finish,” Morris coach Luke Windy said. “We missed five or six wide-open layups in the second half. The girls played hard even when we were down 16 in the first half.”