South Elgin cruises to win over Fenton

Fenton's historic girls basketball season has included many memorable moments.

The Bison set a program record for most wins in a season, beating numerous quality opponents and showing they can win in the traditional sense since abandoning their previous style of chucking 3-pointers.

But Fenton's rise up the win column has hit one impassable roadblock - South Elgin.

For the second time this season, South Elgin played the villain role in Fenton's season.

The Storm scored 20 points in the second quarter to cruise to a 67-35 win over the Bison on Wednesday in Bensenville.

On Jan 11, the Storm recorded a 80-43 victory to end Fenton's seven-game winning streak. In Wednesday's game, the Storm canned 9 3-pointers in a running-clock victory. Senior point guard Caroline Croft led the Storm with 16 points.

Junior guards Chloe Kmiec and Raina Yang each hit 3 3s and finished with 11 points each and Ella Winterhalder poured in 9 points to hand Fenton its first home loss of the season.

South Elgin coach Dan Mandernack said it was the second time in program history that the Storm (24-5, 18-0) won the Upstate Eight Conference, and the second time in five years.

"I've been telling everyone that we're the smallest Class 4A team in the state," he said. "We're all guards and anyone can play point guard for us, so we have to press and manufacture points. The kids are scrappy, fly around and are relentless. We used all three of our presses tonight. Fenton is a good team. They have two really nice tall players, but our press was the difference tonight. To go 18-0 in conference, that's an accomplishment. This team has a lot of heart."

Croft, a four-year varsity player, said the press was the spark for the Storm. Fenton turned the ball over 9 times in the first quarter.

"We started off slow, but got into a groove, especially on defense," Croft said. "We work well together and move the ball and fly around and hustle on defense."

Meanwhile, South Elgin moved a step closer to a 25-win season, building momentum for its Class 4A regional semifinal playoff opener against Elgin on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Storm controlled the boards and feasted off Fenton's turnovers to win their sixth straight game - all by double digits.

The Storm closed out the regular season by keeping their conference record unblemished in part by outscoring the Bison 20-3 in the second quarter. Fenton, which dressed eight players, led for the first four-plus minutes until Winterhalder's steal and layup handed South Elgin an 8-7 lead it would not relinquish the rest of the game.

"Our press is part of our identity," Winterhalder said. "Those steals give us momentum and translate into our offense. We're unselfish on offense."

The Bison (25-5, 14-4) came unhinged when the Storm slapped their full-court pressure defense early in the first quarter, falling victim to a flood of turnovers. The Storm cashed in by scoring points off several turnovers to build a 35-14 lead. Yang ended the second quarter by canning a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer.

The Bison, who play host St. Francis in a Class 3A regional semifinal on Monday, close out the regular season on Senior Night Thursday against Elmwood Park. Gracen Haska scored 15 points for the Bison.

"I have all the respect for South Elgin," Fenton coach Dave Mello said. "They're the real deal. As a pressing team, they give us more problems that you would expect. They fly all over the court. Every pass is contested. The pace of the first quarter was nice, but they had that second quarter run really blew it open. We had a lot of turnovers. Their ball movement was impressive. This is a good lesson for us."

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