The Skinny: Taylor Johnson’s tenacious ball-pressure defense set the tone in the early going of Lincoln-Way East’s 48-33 girls basketball victory over district rival Lincoln-Way North. And her outside shooting provided the Griffins with a spark, too, in the championship game of the Medieval Classic on East’s home floor Thursday night in Frankfort. Johnson scored 10 of her game-high 17 points in the first quarter and sank a pair of 3-pointers as the Griffins raced to leads of 9-2 and 18-4. North had more turnovers (9) than shots in the first half (8) and was unable to play its drive-and-kick style of offense because of East’s defensive pressure.
Patch’s MVP: Taylor Johnson, senior, guard, Lincoln-Way East. She hit 2-of-4 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 17 points. She also disrupted North with her quick hands on defense and turned to playmaker on the other end, setting up her teammates for good looks around the basket.
Key Moments: Lincoln-Way North’s Elise Lampley suffered an ankle injury in a battle to grab a rebound with 3:17 left in the first quarter. She was helped off the floor and returned to the bench in the second half on crutches. East’s Caitlin McMahon grabbed a rebound and was fouled with one-tenth of a second left in the first quarter. Her two free throws extended the Griffins’ lead to 18-4.
Lincoln-Way East Leaders: Taylor Johnson (17 points, 7-of-8 free throws, 2 3-pointers), Caitlin McMahon (10 points, 8 rebounds), Amy Jacobsen (9 points, 4-of-6 shooting), Marissa DeGroot (6 points, 4 rebounds).
Lincoln-Way North Leaders: Ashley Weringa (8 points, 2 3-pointers), Taylor Boardman (8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 blocked shot), Stephanie Pearson (7 points), Ellen Graham (6 points, 3-of-5 shooting).
Quotable I: “East puts a lot of pressure on, and we weren’t able to get into our offense too well,” Lincoln-Way North coach Jim Nair said. “We were kind of back on our heels because of their pressure and we struggled. They kept sending Taylor Johnson to pressure the basketball—whoever brought it down. And it made it difficult for us because she’s one of the best defenders in the state.”
Quotable II: “It feels really good,” East’s Taylor Johnson said. “I’m glad we got the lead early and kept our composure the whole game and kept the lead. I think our defense set the tone. Our coach (Jim Martin) emphasized that at the beginning of the game. We were trying to work on our ball-denial and really pressuring the ball because that really throws off their offense. That’s what it did, and they had trouble scoring. So, it really helped.”
Team Records: Lincoln-Way East is 11-0. The Griffins’ title in the Medieval Classic was their fourth straight and third consecutive over Lincoln-Way North. The Phoenix had a 10-game win streak snapped and fell to 13-3.
All-Tournament Team: Taylor Boardman, Lincoln-Way North; Caitlin McMahon, Lincoln-Way East; Sam Pietruszynski, Lincoln-Way North; Amanda Hozzian, Lincoln-Way West; Kaitlyn McCarthy, Queen of Peace; Hannah Lipman, Queen of Peace; Alyssa Cappecci, Lincoln-Way West; Shannon Butler, Joliet Catholic Academy; Autumn Schultz, Lincoln-Way Central; Kelsie Foster, Lincoln-Way Central.
Tournament MVP: Taylor Johnson, Lincoln-Way East.
What’s Next: Lincoln-Way East plays at Sandburg at 6 p.m. on Jan. 5. Lincoln-Way North plays at Andrew at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 5.