Marist beats Saint Viator with stellar rebounding

Marist senior forward Sydney Affolter won't take anything sitting down.

Unless it's a rebound.

The 6-foot RedHawk collected the unusual offensive board after falling in the second quarter of Marist's East Suburban Catholic Conference girls basketball game at Saint Viator on Saturday afternoon.

Her brief well-look-what-I-found expression kept another possession alive for the visitors.

It also drew more than a few laughs.

The Iowa recruit, who had to pop for the other 16 of her game-high 17 rebounds, scored a game-best 25 points in Marist's 54-41 victory.

"She's a handful," Saint Viator coach Jason Raymond marveled after his Lions got outrebounded 44-19. "And she's a matchup problem. If you put a guard on her, she'll post the guard up and do her thing down low. A forward, along the perimeter, has a tough time preventing Sydney from driving."

The RedHawks (10-1, 6-1) threatened to pile into a Formula One car and vroom to an easy victory, after scoring the first 3 points of the third quarter to secure a 36-20 advantage. But the Lions (7-4, 4-3) responded with a 7-0 spurt - capped by a 3-pointer from junior guard Joy Bergstrom (20 points) - that prompted RedHawks coach Mary Pat Connolly to take a timeout at the 5:52 mark.

"To our girls' credit, after a soft start, they started to battle and then hung in there," said Raymond, whose squad outscored Marist 15-11 in the third quarter, with Bergstrom netting 7 of the points.

Constant energy from quick-handed junior guard Nora Ahram (8 points, 4 rebounds) buoyed Saint Viator and aggravated Marist. Her steal-and-layup occurred only 16 seconds after freshman teammate Mia Bergstrom's putback in a third-quarter surge. Her tight, tireless defense along the perimeter made Marist's guards earn every entry pass.

"An excellent player for us," Raymond said of Ahram, a third-year varsity hoopster whose final bucket of the afternoon narrowed Marist's lead to 46-37 early in the fourth quarter. "She's a table setter, with a great knack for finding an open teammate.

"Nora," he added, "has a tremendous feel for the game when the basketball is in her hands."

Unfortunately for Viator, at both ends of the court, the ball ended up in the capable mitts of Affolter often. Way too often. Strong, relentless and smart, the future Hawkeye tallied 6 straight points - 5 from the free-throw line - to establish a 51-39 cushion in the fourth quarter.

Lions senior guard Emma Morrisey (6 points, 3 rebounds) struck for 4 of her team's 6 points in the final 8 minutes, including a buzzer-beater that didn't spur a celebration. Saint Viator senior forward Aubrey Horbach (team-high 5 rebounds) provided a couple of sparks in the second half, getting a steal and later retrieving a rebound moments after swatting a shot.

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