Rich East found itself in an ideal spot Wednesday night at the Oak Lawn Holiday tournament.
With a win over Riverside-Brookfield, the Rockets would clinch a berth in Saturday’s championship.
Even a loss, barring a huge, gigantic blowout loss, and Rich East still could have advanced via a point differential tiebreaker.
But what’s the fun in a tiebreaker? The Rockets wanted a win, to earn that berth in the championship.
“We wanted it, and it feels better to win it,” Rich East’s Jordan Towery said.
“We went out playing hard and wanting that win.”
Executing down the stretch in a big fourth quarter, Rich East took down Riverside-Brookfield 62-55, winning its pool and advancing to Saturday’s championship at noon against host Oak Lawn.
Ashley Dennis finished with a hard-fought 21 points for Rich East (6-4) with Towery (19 points, 5 steals) and Jada Banks (12 points) contributing to the win.
“We wanted to show everyone we’re not the underdogs,” Dennis said. “We can win games and do anything that any other team can do.”
The Rockets certainly earned Wednesday’s win, heading into the fourth in a 42-all game with Riverside-Brookfield. With the Bulldogs double and triple-teaming Dennis in the post, Towery and company picked up the slack.
Towery finished with six points in the fourth, Carmari Lloyd six of her own and Dennis scoring five points as Rich East went up 49-43 and then 55-47 on the way to the pool play win.
For the Rockets, the defensive focus on Dennis was absolutely nothing new, just something they keep on working at responding to.
“We’ve had experiences like that with other teams,” Towery said. “When Ashley gets doubled, we need to count on other players.”
Rich East outscored Riverside-Brookfield 20-13 in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs committed six turnovers.
“We talked about playing as a team, passing the ball around,” Dennis said. “Be more disciplined and push the ball like we know we can, play at our own speed.”
Riverside-Brookfield (10-3) was paced by Samantha Bloom’s 25 points with Miranda Chavez adding eight points.
“Rich East beat us and hit the key shots,” R-B coach Dallas Till said. “We knew this tournament would be physical and rough, prepare us for the state tournament and the rest of our conference schedule. The girls are worn down, but they continue to give maximum effort.”