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Plano puts pressure on Rosary girls basketball

AURORA – Another schedule crunch is about to greet the Rosary girls basketball team, offering a welcome break from a 20-day holiday hiatus.

For as much as coach Jessie Wilcox stressed fundamentals during a prolonged period of practices, the Royals needed a real-time test after their review session. Friday’s 42-38 loss to Plano didn’t end ideally, but it did suffice.

Accordingly, Rosary figures to face another brush with the basics soon enough. The Reapers (14-4) harassed the Royals (7-9) with steady full-court zone pressure after halftime while flustering the hosts in more ways than one.

“When they picked up the pressure, we followed suit and made some costly fouls that just were unnecessary,” Wilcox said. “They didn’t have a field goal the entire fourth quarter. We have to be more basketball smart and realize that we’re up. Just because they’re putting pressure on us doesn’t mean we have to reciprocate.”

Plano overcame 8-for-28 first-half shooting to trail, 24-19, at the break. Both teams had chances to build bigger leads with more efficient free-throw shooting. Instead, the Royals (7 for 15) and Reapers (14 for 27) combined to convert about 50 percent of their foul shots.

While Wilcox and Plano counterpart Mario Serra both conceded free throws loomed large, Reapers post Clarisa Martinez provided some key numbers of her own. The 6-foot-3 junior finished just shy of a triple-double, contributing 11 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocked shots.

Approaching the media after the game, Martinez politely stepped back when she felt a cough coming on. For much of the second half, the Royals would have been better advised to keep a similar distance. Plano grabbed a 31-30 lead after Martinez used a cagey strategy to collect six blocks in the third quarter alone.

“It depends on the refs,” Martinez said. “I know sometimes I have to do it on the release, or sometimes I can just go ahead and go for it. I practice it a lot.”

Karly Tate shined with physical defense for Rosary, while Quincy Kellett grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Still, discipline was a problem as the Reapers fed guards Tachae Miles (16 points) and Aaqila Johnson down the stretch.

Miles swished two free throws to give the Reapers a 38-36 lead with 2:06 to play, and Johnson split a pair about a minute later. Rosary’s Madison Richmond hoisted a potential game-tying 3-pointer on the following possession, but the shot rattled out. Plano then finished its fourth-quarter strategy, gritted teeth and all.

“Everything we do is drive to the basket, drive to the basket and hit foul shots,” Serra said. “Thankfully, we hit just enough today.”

Rachel Choice (nine points) and Richmond (eight) led Rosary, which had not played since edging Minooka in a holiday tournament game at Oswego on Dec. 15. Wilcox did not use the layoff as a crutch. Besides, it’s moot now with Rosary returning to Suburban Christian Conference play with today’s visit to Guerin, the start of a four-game conference road trip during the coming week.

“I wouldn’t say it was rust,” Wilcox said. “We always start the game off slow and then we kicked it into gear. Like I said, we need to start learning basketball and control the game how we want to control it. Not let the other team control it.”

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