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By Mike Sandrolini
If you only looked at the Lady Pirates’ shooting statistics from their West Suburban Gold showdown at home against Downers South last Saturday evening, you would come away with the conclusion that they didn’t fare very well.
The Pirates shot just 32 percent from the field during the first half—40 percent for the game—and made only 41 percent of their free-throw attempts (12 of 29).
However, Proviso East got hot for a stretch when they needed to most: towards the end of the third quarter and into the fourth quarter of their eventual 63-43 victory over the Mustangs—a win that secured their second consecutive WSG championship.
East held a slim 31-27 lead in the third quarter, but outscored the Mustangs 9-4 the rest of the period as freshman Kendra Hatley converted a traditional three-point play, and then, sophomore Keimari Rimmer sank a long three-pointer that beat the third-quarter buzzer.
The Pirates led 40-31 going into the fourth, and pulled away from the Mustangs (9-1 in the conference coming into the game) by hitting their first five attempts from the floor.
Junior Kolbi Powell (10 points) capped that sequence by scoring five straight points, including a three-pointer, to put the Pirates up, 51-33.
“Kolbi Powell has really come through for us,” said Proviso East coach Ezra PridGeon Jr., whose squad is 15-4 overall, 11-0 in the conference. “She does a lot of things. She doesn’t score many points but she’s scrappy, she’s aggressive and she plays like that every night. That’s why she’s in the starting rotation because of what she gives me out there. She gives me a lot more and she’s quick.”
Powell was one of four Pirates in double figures. Daliyah Brown, a junior, led the team with 18 points to go along with six rebounds, Rimmer added 12 points, four steals and four assists, and Kyla Richardson totaled 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
Hatley ended up with seven points.
“Hatley is a good ballplayer; she’s a smart ballplayer,” PridGeon said. “She’s going to make mistakes as a freshman that we expect, but she has a lot to offer. She can’t do anything but grow from here. That’s the thing I like about her: she’s very level-headed, she listens and she picks up things very well very quick.”
It appeared as if the Pirates were going to make short work of Downers South as they frustrated the Mustangs with their full-court press and forced eight turnovers during the first quarter while grabbing a 17-8 lead.
However, the Mustangs fought back and took advantage of chilly shooting by the Pirates in the second quarter. East finally got its first basket of the period with 2:16 to go; they shot 3 of 9 from the floor and 4 of 11 from the line during the second quarter. Downers South grabbed its first—and only—lead of the matchup, 22-21, at 1:48 of the quarter. But East closed the period with a 6-3 run to take a 27-24 halftime lead.
“We started off well in the first quarter and then started slacking on defense,” PridGeon said. “Defensive assignments were missed, and (we were) taking shots that we shouldn’t take from the perimeter. At halftime we said that we need to start attacking the zone. If we attack the zone, it would open things up for us. All we need to do is be patient and execute to try and break it down.
“We were just standing around the perimeter, passing the ball and didn’t want to shoot from the perimeter. And then we weren’t moving; we were stagnant at one point and weren’t moving the ball, and the defense just rested. Another thing we told them is we have to push the ball down the court—get out of bounds and go with it and catch them on their heels.”
The Pirates, who’ve won seven straight and haven’t lost a game in the new calendar year, visit Leyden for their WSG finale this Friday night. Leyden played the Pirates to a two-point game before losing on Jan. 6 (62-60), but the Pirates were without two of their starters in that particular contest. East then meets Proviso West in their annual District 209 game at 1:05 p.m. Saturday.
“We still have a lot of the (regular) season to go,” PridGeon said. “We’ve got four big games (left before the postseason) and each game we take one at a time. We want to concentrate on Leyden and then after that we can concentrate on West.”
PridGeon and the Pirates are keeping their collective fingers crossed that senior forward Caprice Hairston—who hasn’t seen action all season after tearing her left ACL during a summer league game—will receive medical clearance this week to begin playing.
Hairston indicated after the Downers South game that she’s confident she’ll be back. She was scheduled to meet with a doctor on Monday.
“Our prayers are that she’s released on that day,” PridGeon said. “We’re not going to say that that’s going to happen because it’s in God’s hands right now, but once she’s released, we have her ready for the playoffs. Hopefully we have her ready for (Proviso) West. She’s been running up and down the court with us so she’s been looking pretty good.”