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Aurora Central Catholic girls basketball falls short, Rosary advances

AURORA – The Aurora Central Catholic girls’ basketball team found out that seeding means nothing when the playoffs arrive.

Despite having the higher seed at its own IHSA Class 3A Regional, fifth seeded Hampshire played a near perfect game and advanced to face top-seeded Burlington Central tonight with a 55-34 win over the Chargers. 

The Whip-Purs advanced to the regional semifinals where they will be joined by Rosary, who easily took care of IMSA, 55-16.

The biggest problem for ACC was trying to stop Hampshire’s (12-14) inside-outside game of center Emma Benoit and guard Sara Finn.

Benoit was on pace for a triple-double at halftime but foul trouble sidelined the sophomore for much of the third quarter. Benoit finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. 

Meanwhile, Finn handled the ACC press and routinely took Chargers guards to the basket off the dribble on her way to a game-high 25 points.

Finn and the Hampshire guards ratcheted up the defensive intensity in the third quarter, limiting ACC (11-15) to just nine points to take a 44-25 lead. 

“It was tough from our perspective to seed this regional. We felt coming in that the teams’ were very evenly matched,” Hampshire coach Mike Featherly said. “Emma (Benoit) came ready to play. The last three weeks or so, she’s really changed her demeanor preparing for games – a lot more serious. And Sara Finn is kind of carrying us right now. ”

Hampshire came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter, jumping out to a 7-0 lead behind a pair of Benoit baskets. Benoit rejected a pair of shots while altering another on ACC’s first three possessions. 

“My coach just told us why not us and we came out there and brought the energy,” Benoit said. “We just worked to move the ball around. We knew that they drove the ball and kicked so we just needed the help on the other side.”

The Chargers found their way back into the game midway through the second quarter after a pair of baskets from Kalie Soris, the second of which pulled ACC within 12-7 with 1:24 to go in the quarter.  

But Hampshire went on a 9-0 run early in the second to pull away as the Whip-purs led 31-16 at the half.

“We just didn’t have it tonight; they played really well and executed,” ACC coach Mark Fitzgerald said. “This was just a let down on our own floor. Besides Montini, we haven’t been blown out at all this year. They deserved to win. We would have like to see our girls show a little better tonight. We’re not used to being one-and-done around here.”

Gabi Alfaro led ACC with 16 points on four 3-pointers. The Chargers will return all but two players next season.

In the other regional quarterfinal, Rosary (13-13) held IMSA scorless for the first 12:40 of the second half en route to an easy 55-16 win. 

Leading 27-8 at the half, the Royals didn’t allow an IMSA basket until 3:20 to go in the fourth quarter. By that point, Rosary had pulled its starters off the floor in a game that wasn’t close.

IMSA hung around for the first couple of minutes of the first quarter, trailing just 13-6. Rosary coach Jessie Wilcox challenged her team at the start of the second quarter and the Royals’ responded, holding the Titans to just one field goal that came with 11 seconds to go in the half.

“Coming into the regional, we really just focused on us,” Wilcox said. “We needed to get better at defense and offense and just focused on the little things like loose balls. It wasn’t so much about the score as we needed to more work on our fundamentals.”

Nine Royals scored in the rout, led by Rachel Choice’s 14 points. Taylor Drozdowski was also in double figures for Rosary with 11. 

Rosary advances to take on second-seeded St. Edward tonight. 

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