Junior Jess Moriarty will be shopping for her third school in three years next fall with the closing of Mt. Assisi. After attending Christian Liberty last year, Moriarty transferred to Mt. Assisi when her family moved from the northwest suburbs.
“I wasn’t a part of this last year,” the 5-6 junior said.
But Moriarty was a big part of “this” Thursday.
Moriarty had 13 points and 11 rebounds and helped Mt. Assisi weather the loss of leading scorer Mary Kate Wetzel to foul trouble for most of the second half as the Eagles (13-17) stunned the hosts 52-42 to win the Class 2A Lisle Regional.
The regional title was the second in a row for Mt. Assisi, which had never won a trophy in basketball in the school’s previous 62 years of existence prior to last year.
“I just wanted this so bad,” Moriarty said. “I think this means everything to the school. It’s closing, and to finish out our season with a regional banner and hopefully more, this means everything to us and to the school. You just go after every loose ball, every rebound. I just wanted it.”
Mt. Assisi coach Kelsey James, who will be shopping for a new job after leading the Eagles to consecutive regional titles, could not say enough about Moriarty and her team’s defense.
“Jess definitely took over,” said James, who is in her fourth year as the school’s head coach. “It’s exciting for her to win a regional with this team her first year here. She’s going to make sure she spends her time at Mt. Assisi well, so she gets everything she can.
“And if you look at our team we’re all about 5-5, so if we’re going to be good at anything, defense is what we’re going to be good at,” the coach added. “That’s what we’ve been stressing all year. In order for us to be successful, we have to get stops on defense, and they really bought into it today.”
A three-pointer by Terri Dearth (seven points) gave Mt. Assisi a 13-10 lead after one quarter, but Lisle (19-10) finished the second quarter on a 7-2 run to lead 23-21 at the break.
Monifah Davis (16 points) scored on consecutive possessions to give the Lions a 31-25 lead with a little more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter, but freshman Monica Tadros (seven points) scored twice and Moriarty scored on a rebound to pull the Eagles even at 31.
“We worked so hard to get that six-point lead, but we had a miscommunication on an inbounds play that we typically run, they get a layup, we turn it over, they score, we turn it over, they score, we turn it over, they score,” Lisle coach Nick Balaban said.
“That would have been an opportunity for us to settle down and run some offense, but when that occurred, we felt we had to pressure them,” he added. “We just had some breakdowns. That was the story of how we played down the stretch this year.”
Tadros’ conventional three-point play and a Kathleen Murphy free throw gave Mt. Assisi a 43-38 lead 2:15 into the fourth quarter, and Moriarty’s three-pointer from the right corner extended the lead to 46-38 with 3:55 left.
Lisle closed to within 47-42 when Wetzel picked up her fifth foul, but Moriarty made five straight free throws in the closing 1:46 to account for the final margin.
“I was definitely nervous,” said Wetzel, who had 17 points and seven rebounds. “I didn’t think that last foul was one me. I knew I had the prior four, but I didn’t think that was on me. Going out I was pretty emotional because I wasn’t prepared to end my season right there like that.
“But I trusted the girls,” she added. “They held us together during the second and third quarters when I wasn’t in there. I knew they could do it. They just followed what our coach told us. Stopping them on defense and keeping a hold of that ball.”
And holding tightly to that regional plaque, too.