OAK LAWN | It wasn’t always pretty but T.F. South used tight defense to punch its ticket to the championship game of the Richards Basketball Invitational.
After scoring 20 in the first quarter, the Rebels seemed to have the game in hand. But Eisenhower slowed things down and gave itself a chance to make it a game in the second half.
Leading, 30-20, heading into halftime, the Rebels (2-0) seemed to get complacent as the Cardinals used a 12-4 run to cut the lead to just two points late in the third quarter.
“They were hustling and we just fell asleep,” T.F. South Coach Steve Breshock said. “We’re very young and we’re going to have these problems we just have to work through it. I’m just glad that after their run we came back with one of our own.”
What a run it was. The Rebels held Eisenhower scoreless for almost seven minutes from late in the third quarter to midway through the fourth and used 15 unanswered points to blow the game open.
Ren’Cia Rolling had six of her game-high 15 points during that stretch to help T.F. South get control back and guarantee a place in the title game.
“We just had to tighten up our defense and make them work,” Rolling said. “We’re like a big family so when things get tough there are no attitudes on the court, we can talk to each other out there and get things back on track.”
Tighten the defense is exactly what the Rebels did, using a suffocating zone defense to keep the Cardinals out of the lane and forcing them to shoot from the outside, when they allowed them to shoot at all. During their run T.F. South forced four turnovers and allowed Eisenhower to attempt only five shots.
“Coach said that we had to hustle and start running them to wear them out,” Rolling said. “We started moving our feet on defense and not fouling and we got through it.”
The Cardinals got the lead down to two before the Rebels turned up their defense and got the offense going, hitting 11 of 18 shots to close out the game.
For a team with only two seniors on the roster dealing with adversity on the court is always a concern, but T.F. South came through with a total team effort. Five different Rebels scored during the final run.
“They work together really well,” Breshock said. “They all get along well and they are learning together at the same pace. There are no bad attitudes on this team, they just keep getting better and enjoying it.”