AURORA – Rosary girls basketball coach Jessie Wilcox didn’t have to wait for Wednesday night for a sense of how much the Rosary-Aurora Central Catholic rivalry matters to her program.
The first-year coach discovered that age-old truth months ago.
“I had people talking to me about it before I even got the job,” Wilcox said. “So I knew it was very, very meaningful, not as far as the scheme of [the season], but just for these girls.”
Given that backdrop, Wilcox can be assured she’s making a strong first impression on her team.
Rosary used a stingy defensive effort Wednesday to fend off the host Chargers, 42-34, in a Suburban Christian Conference Blue matchup.
The Royals had a modest 35-31 at the end of the third quarter and, as it turned out, didn’t need another point. The fading Chargers managed only three points in the final quarter.
Wilcox was proud of how her team finished the game at the defensive end.
“They had a game last night, we had a game last night,” Wilcox said. “We knew it was going to come down to stamina and defense.”
ACC (8-9, 1-5) was playing without senior Lisa Rodriguez (concussion), the team’s leading scorer, rebounder, shot blocker and top defender. It’s safe to say the Chargers missed her dearly.
“I’m a man-to-man person, but losing Lisa and that quickness there, it really forced us to do more zone than I usually like to do,” ACC coach Mark Fitzgerald said. “We usually like to bump the cutters and be physical and box out, all that kind of stuff. They’re learning to do it, it’s just not there yet.”
Rosary showed an uncharacteristic penchant for hunting 3-point shots, hoisting 15 attempts in the first half. The Royals made five of those, three coming from guard Madison Richmond.
“The looks were definitely there,” said Richmond, a Batavia resident. “The way we moved the ball together as a team opened us up. We got the shots we needed to look for.”
Added Wilcox: “I was happy that the girls were shooting. Most of the time I have to pry them to take an outside shot.”
Rosary (10-9, 4-2 SCC Blue), which led 23-22 at halftime, switched gears to start the second half, and prioritized penetration. Karly Tate and Emily Bakala each scored on drives to the basket to start the second half and supply the visitors some cushion.
A transition layup by Chargers senior Alex DeCraene brought ACC within 33-31 late in the third quarter, but the Chargers came no closer.
ACC was led by 11 points from guard Kalie Soris and 10 from forward Alex Horton, both part of a a sophomore-heavy lineup the Chargers are featuring without Rodriguez.
Sophomore Quincy Kellett paced the Royals with 10 points. Karly Tate and Richmond had nine each, and Choice added eight points and nine rebounds.
The teams are due to meet for a second time Jan. 30 at Rosary.