Neither coach could recall the last time Joliet Catholic beat Benet.
With Nicole Ekhomu and Jasmine Lumpkin, this is a different Angels team.
Freshman guard Ekhomu scored 25 points and Lumpkin, a junior transfer from Montini, had 19 points and 14 rebounds in Joliet Catholic’s 61-51 win over Benet on Thursday in Joliet.
Joliet Catholic (7-1, 1-0 East Suburban Catholic Conference) is off to its best start in five years under coach Ed Schodrof, who beat Benet for the first time.
“It’s an exciting process for us and a good step forward,” Schodrof said. “We hadn’t beat Benet since I’d been here, and before I was here it had been a long time. To beat a program that we respect as much as Benet, and plays as smart as Benet, is a nice step forward for us.”
Benet (8-3, 0-1) never led and was playing catchup from the start after spotting Joliet Catholic an early 7-1 lead. It was 29-20 by halftime, Ekhomu scoring 15 of her 25 in the first half. Benet got as close as 31-28 two minutes into the third quarter after an Emily Eshoo 3-pointer, but Joliet Catholic answered with a 9-0 run capped off by an Ekhomu 3-pointer.
Every time the Redwings clawed closer, it seemed they could not get that one critical stop.
“We scored enough points,” Benet coach Peter Paul said. “We just couldn’t stop them. I think we can score enough, but it’s a matter of can we stop people.”
Lumpkin and Ekhomu, in particular, were two kids Benet’s defense had no answer for. Few teams have, Bolingbrook the only team to beat the Angels.
Lumpkin, a sleek 6-footer, can be a nightmare to defend in transition, a one-girl fastbreak. Ekhomu, a gifted 5-foot-9 guard whose uncle played professionally overseas, already has multiple Division I offers including Michigan State and Purdue. She hit Benet with an array of drives, pullups and 3s, at one point going behind her back with a dribble in transition to get to the rim.
“She’s a great talent,” Lumpkin said. “It’s just crazy how good she’s going to be when she’s a senior.”
Ekhomu’s older sister Christine is a junior starting guard for Joliet Catholic.
“I’ve been playing up all my life,” Ekhomu said, “starting when I was in second grade on a sixth-grade team with my sister.”
Christen Prasse scored 19 points, Eshoo 14 and Emily Schramek 10 for Benet, which was without starting junior Eden Olson (ankle). Paul understands his young team is bound to go through its share of ups and downs against a punishing schedule.
Benet did not shoot as well as recent games, particularly in the first half, and struggled to defend its opponent in transition.
“We are young, and we were rolling early, and now we have some injuries,” Paul said, “and I think some of the kids sometimes read the press clippings a little bit and you think you’re better than you are. All these things I think are piling together. We’re struggling a little bit, and our shooting was off. But to be honest, we want to be playing our best at the end of the year. Not now. It will take time to find our identity.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.