First it was Nicole Ekhomu.
Then, Jasmine Lumpkin.
Finally, Kennedy Weigt.
It was a 1-2-3 flurry of knockout punches Joliet Catholic threw at Hillcrest in Monday’s Rich South Galaxy tournament semifinal.
The final was 81-70, as the Angels advanced to Wednesday’s championship game against Bishop McNamara.
Lumpkin finished with 24 points and nine rebounds, Ekhomu 18 points and Weigt 15 for Joliet Catholic (2-0).
Hillcrest (1-2) was led by Nadika Jackson (14 points), Tanzania Sherrill (14 points), Tierra Sanders (13 points, eight rebounds), Shayla Joyner (12 points) and Aliah Acker (10 points).
Ekhomu came out firing against the Hawks, hitting six of her first eight shots and scoring the Angels’ first 13 points. Amazing, considering she had missed Saturday’s game at the Galaxy due to a sprained ankle.
“I was just kind of feeling it,” Ekhomu said. “I came out like I felt fire under my feet because I didn’t play Saturday.”
At that point, it was 13-12 Joliet Catholic, and the point where Lumpkin started her own fire. She finished the period with six points, as the Angels sprinted in front 27-16, and then scored 11 of Joliet Catholic’s 14 in the second.
“Our whole team contributed,” Lumpkin said. “But it was our team defense and intensity that got me fired up.
“Our 1-3-1 defense, if you play it right you do get a lot of steals. I enjoy playing it. We were up there causing a lot of havoc.”
The Angels forced 25 Hillcrest turnovers, but there were times when the Hawks caught their stride. One of them was midway through the third period, as a Kyla Cornelius bank-in closed the deficit to 52-44.
After Jnaya Walker responded for the Angels with a turnaround jumper, Weigt, who hadn’t scored all night, hit Hillcrest with a 5-for-5 salvo from three-point range.
“I knew I wasn’t playing the most in the beginning, but I wanted to go in with a bang and do whatever I could,” Weigt said.
The last one made it a 76-51 proposition, a deep enough hole that a furious Hillcrest rally late fell well short.
“That’s a quality ballclub,” Hillcrest coach John Maniatis said. “The Weigt girl hit some daggers on us. The Ekhomu girl did a nice job handling the basketball, and there is a reason why Jasmine Lumpkin is going to Michigan State University.
“They’re well-coached, disciplined, and take care of the basketball. The 25 turnovers hurt us tonight. We have to do a better job handling the basketball in clutch situations.”
Bishop McNamara 65, Rich South 58
Khadaizha Sanders scored 27 points and Kyleigh Payne 19 as Bishop McNamara (3-0) advanced to the title game. Rich South (2-1) was paced by Dasia Evans (19 points), Tierra Webb (15 points) and Tierney Lockett (14 points).