The explosive offense showed up eventually, but it was defense that really got the ball rolling Tuesday for Marian Catholic.
The No. 3 Spartans rolled to a 57-35 victory over No. 8 Bloom in the first of two Class 4A Mother McAuley Sectional semifinals.
Marian Catholic held Bloom to single digits in each of the first two quarters, and used a late second period outburst to build a 16-point lead at intermission.
The “Battle of Chicago Heights” was pretty much on its way to being over.
Teniya Page led the way for Marian Catholic (29-1) with 16 points, Briana Narcissi added 12, Melanie Ransom had nine, while Kauai Bradley (seven rebounds) and Ashton Millender recorded eight points each.
Bloom (21-7) was paced by Danielle King (14 points).
The Spartans’ man-to-man defense was more or less suffocating. Bloom hit for a pair of first-half threes by Mariah Middleton, but many drives to the bucket ended in missed layups or turnovers.
“We were working on [stopping] guard penetration all week,” Spartans forward Megan Walsh said. “Our guards really stepped up. They knew what they were doing.”
Walsh, meanwhile, shut down Bloom scoring machine Bria Gaines. Gaines had 11 rebounds, but only took five shots and finished with six points.
“Bria is a great player,” Walsh said. “She’s strong. I was fortunate to have Kauai (Bradley) on the back side to help out on her.”
The underdog Blazing Trojans led just twice, at 2-1 and 5-3. The score was 9-8 Marian late in the first period when Page ripped through the lane for a three-point play, sparking an 11-0 run that carried over into the second quarter.
Bloom pulled back within seven, at 22-15 after a three by Middleton, but the Spartans found a burst of energy just before intermission. Bradley drove the lane for a bucket, Page turned in another three-point play and Narcissi went the length of the court for a basket to make it 31-15.