After needing a last-minute rally to edge Lisle 33-32 in the regional finals last Thursday, Walther Lutheran was determined to avoid such drama on Tuesday.
The Broncos succeeded in that mission, scoring the first 16 points en route to a 60-29 rout of St. Benedict at the Class 2A Lisle Sectional semifinal.
Senior forward Isimeme Edeko had 15 points, nine rebounds and three steals to lead Walther (24-6), which faces Willows in Thursday’s championship game. Edeko did much of her damage in the first quarter, scoring nine points to stake her team to an 18-2 lead.
Edeko scored the first basket of the game on a transition layup and later added two more layups as the Broncos got their running game going.
“We’re just a really good transition team,” Edeko said. “Looking up the court is what we like to work on.”
The Broncos used their press to force 38 turnovers, 13 of which came in the opening period. Seven different players combined to make 21 steals, with Anna Strong and Mashayla Kirksy each pinching five and Arra Strong getting four.
Once in transition, the Strong twins were in their glory, dishing out a combined seven assists when they weren’t scoring themselves. This was one of their best efforts of the season.
“The first quarter, third quarter and most of the fourth quarter is kind of our game,” Walther Lutheran coach Todd Fisher said. “That’s what we like to do, score off our press and hit the offensive boards. That’s what we want to do to as many teams as possible.”
That task was made much easier when St. Benedict senior guard Alexis Genge picked up two quick fouls in the first 95 seconds.
The Bengals (17-9) trailed 5-0 when Genge went out and were down 16-0 when St. Benedict coach Frank Deangelis put her back in three minutes later.
“We already were aware of the main players we should focus on, so we were going to make sure we stopped her in the paint,” Edeko said. “But [Genge’s foul trouble] was to our benefit.”
Genge, the GCAC White Player of the Year, got the Bengals on the scoreboard when she hit a runner in the lane at the 2:31 mark of the first quarter and that gave St. Benedict some life.
The Bengals pulled within 20-11 on a 17-foot jumper by Iris Gasca with 2:40 left in the second quarter, only to see the Broncos bump the lead up to 29-17 at halftime. Walther then forced 12 more turnovers in the third quarter to extend the cushion to 44-24.
Anna Strong finished with 13 points and six rebounds, while Kirksy tallied 11 points and Arra Strong had nine for Walther, which feels primed to make a long tournament run.
“That’s the plan, especially the way we started the first quarter,” Edeko said. “We were really excited about the way we looked. The goal is to make it to state this year.”
Genge had 13 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists for St. Benedict, but the rest of the Bengals combined to shoot 7-for-32 from the floor, with no other player scoring more than four points