OAK LAWN | If it wasn't for the "big" on Curie, Thursday's game between T.F. South and the Condors might have been a different story.
But Caelynn Allen-Manning was there, all 6-foot-3 of her, all night. And while she might have scored the quietest 21 points in girls basketball history, her presence on both ends of the court was enough to disrupt the Rebels, helping Curie to a 60-54 victory in the opener for both teams in Richards' Bobby Bolton Classic.
The outcome dropped T.F. South to the consolation bracket, where it will face Reavis (0-1), from the other side of the South Suburban Conference, at 7:30 p.m. today. Curie plays Lincoln-Way East (1-1), which knocked off Reavis 71-24.
Allen-Manning's defense – 13 rebounds and a blocked shot – told more of the story than her offense. Her size forced the Rebels outside, and until senior guard Kaitlyn Togtman caught fire from behind the three-point line, T.F. South was at a loss.
Togtman's trigger eventually found the range. She scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half, a trio of three-pointers helping close the gap to four points early in the fourth quarter. But Allen-Manning pulled down a half-dozen rebounds in the final quarter, and nobody was within reach of her.
"We let her create space," Rebels coach Steve Breshock said. "We wanted to stop her from moving when she caught the ball. We got caught on the side of her, which gave her that dribble. When she got the dribble, she was hard to stop."
T.F. South's pluck was impressive. Even when Togtman was saddled with her fourth foul and had to come out, the Rebels kept scrapping.
"The 'big' was a lot taller than all of us," Togtman said. "Our center (Jessica Majors, 5-foot-8) did a really good job. This was a very good first game for us."
Five points by Shamiah Oliver and a fast-break basket by Kevoncia Duckworth made it 54-40 in Curie's favor with 5:16 to play.
Game over? Not yet. The Rebels came back. Togtman's final three-pointer, with 30.7 seconds left, made it a six-point game again. Failure to steal the inbounds pass sealed the Rebels' fate.
"I liked the effort, especially when we got down 14," Breshock said. "We got it back to five. And there's a lot of inexperience out there."
Less, after an opener against a team like Curie.