OAK LAWN | T.F. South girls basketball coach Steve Breshock remembers a time when his Rebels couldn't shoot straight.
It was this time last year. Breshock went straight to Coaching 101 to remedy the problem.
"From Christmas on, we shot an hour every day in practice," Breshock recalled. "It's starting to show some dividends."
The payoff in Thursday's season opener was a convincing 61-42 victory over Thornridge in the Bobby Bolton Classic at Richards.
The immediate reward for T.F. South is a semifinal matchup with Eisenhower tonight at 6 p.m. Thornridge meets Thornwood at 7:30 p.m. Eisenhower beat Thornwood, 48-39, in the nightcap.
Ninah Bertrand, a senior listed charitably at 5-foot-6, was the ringleader, scoring 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including a 3-pointer, and a 5-of-8 reading from the free-throw line.
"We just wanted to push, and push hard, but stay under control," said Bertrand, who averaged 8.5 points last season. "We've been practicing hard, and I wanted that to show in the game. We had some kinks last year that we didn't work out because we didn't have chemistry."
Bertrand's accuracy from the field was a boon to the Rebels, but she wasn't alone. Ren'Cia Rolling scored 14 points, going 6-of-8 from the floor. Overall, the Rebels shot 50 percent (24 of 48) from the field, pulling further away from the Falcons at each break. They led by two points at the quarter, by six at the half and by 12 after three quarters.
The 12 rebounds garnered by 5-foot-7 guard Kameron Dickens – part of a 34-22 advantage by the Rebels – showed T.F. South was solid on each end of the floor. T.F. South also helped force the Falcons into 18 turnovers while committing only 13.
"We lost the focus a couple of times but we regained it," Breshock said. "I was happy with the defense. Once we figured out what they were doing, we had a lot better stops. We kept the pressure up, and I think we're going to wear some people down at the end."
For Danny Wafford, the fourth varsity coach at Thornridge in as many years, there were enough bright spots to see a change in the outcome soon. The Falcons have started 0-2 after going 0-25 last season.
"We're learning how to compete," Wafford said. "It's aggressive, but it's got to be controlled aggression. Defensively, we've got to recognize help defense, and we've got to get in and box out. We let too many little people in."
Once Arion Pamon (6-foot-3), Shakiria McCoy (6-foot-2) and Camille Taylor (5-foot-11) learn to play together, the Falcons could be a force.
"We'll get there," Wafford said. "I hope by this weekend!"
Thornridge was led by freshman Raven Watts' 14-point showing. JayShari Chears came off the bench to score 10.
In Thornwood's loss, Monica Hayes led the Thunderbirds with 12 points.