WHITING | Having played Bishop Noll twice already this season, Whiting decided to make a change.
In Saturday's girls basketball sectional title game, the Oilers moved Citlali Lopez, who had twice played point guard against the Warriors, to the No. 2 spot, and gave the point duties to Bri Blackwell.
The move altered the way Bishop Noll guarded each player and opened Lopez up for more points. With a game-high 21 from Lopez and a double-double from Blackwell, the Oilers booked a trip to this Saturday's Rochester Regional. They'll face Boone Grove at 11:30 a.m., a team that Whiting beat in overtime on Dec. 22.
"They're interchangeable, they really are," Whiting coach Kevin Moynihan said. "That's what we wanted, we wanted them to be interchangeable in case someone was taken out of the game, we didn't want to lose a step."
Lopez and Blackwell have helped lead the Oilers in scoring all season. Averaging 15.5 and 17 points respectively in the sectional, the pair combined for 65 points — including nine 3s — in two days of postseason games.
Their greatest contribution to the sectional title, Moynihan said, came in what only he and his coaches saw.
"It was all the intangible things, the things that you don't see that they added to the will of the team," he said. "It wouldn't have mattered who we played on Saturday night, they were not going to lose. You could see it on their face, they weren't going to take no for an answer."
His said his juniors improved communication by constantly talking on the floor, and that during any lull on the floor, the two could be found with their arms around their teammates picking them up explaining the next play.
"Working as a team made us stronger," Lopez said. "In order to get far, we had to beat the team that beat us."
Those are typically characteristics shown by seniors facing the end of their prep careers. In this case, the two juniors were part of four players that never left the floor in the sectional game.
"I think it comes from their love and passion for the game," Moynihan said. "I've said it before, I think they're the happiest when they're on the floor."
Extending the season another week is a dream for the Oilers. In addition to facing Boone Grove for a second time this season, Whiting is in a sectional with Bishop Luers, which is fifth in Class 2A in the Sagarin Ratings.
"Our whole team goal is to try our best and win, and I don't think that goal is changing," Blackwell said. "We know we have to step up, because they're not going to be easy."