Prospect's late lead slips away in Blenner title game

St. Ignatius spoiled Prospect's bid for a second straight championship in the 39th annual Blenner Classic on Friday night when the Wolfpack put together a second-half rally to nudge past the Knights, 61-57, in a game that had all the excitement of a sectional final.

"How about that game?" said Wolfpack coach Cara Doyle, who grew up on the east coast and played collegiately for Colgate's women's basketball team. "Everyone got their money's worth tonight. Prospect is always really tough. They are well coached and their kids seem to grow taller every year."

Doyle probably noted that because she didn't see one of their tallest girls, 6-foot-1, Alli Linke last year.

The freshman is making quite a varsity debut this season and led the Knights with 20 points and 10 rebounds while her sister Taylor, a senior, added 15 with 6 assists and 5 rebounds.

Alli Linke's second 3-pointer gave Prospect a 57-51 lead with 3:54 left in the game but the Wolfpack did not give up any more points. They took the lead for good when senior Ada Taute's layup tied the game at 57 with 1:01 left. She then took an inbounds pass and hit the go-ahead layup with 22 seconds left.

Prospect (13-4) missed two shots in the lane before Taute was fouled and converted 2 free throws with 8.5 seconds left to seal St. Ignatius' 12th win in 15 games.

"We had our opportunities and I thought St. Ignatius did a good job of taking advantage of their opportunities around the basket," said Prospect coach Matt Weber. "The difference in close games is things like rebounding and making high-percentage shots and they executed those things better than us."

Trailing 13-9 with 2:30 left in the first quarter, Gina Falls (9 points, three 3-pointers) started a 9-0 run with back-to-back 3-pointers and Nicole Atteo (5 points, 6 rebounds) followed with a third to give Prospect an 18-13 lead.

St. Ignatius was within 20-18 when the Knights produced a 12-2 run, with the last 6 points coming on 3-pointers by Campbell Conner and Alli Linke for a 32-20 advantage.

Two free throws by Allie Linke gave Prospect a 35-27 lead at intermission.

However, St. Ignatius went on a 15-2 run in the final four minutes of the third quarter and led 49-44 heading into the final period.

"I loved our energy at the beginning of the game," Weber said. "I thought we were running the court well and that our press was effective. Credit St. Ignatius with coming out in the second half and answering."

Zoe Brown added 4 points and 4 rebounds for the Knights who face Mundelein next week on Thursday and meet Hersey on Friday for first place in the Mid-Suburban East.

"We just have to learn from this game and carry it into the second half of our season because we have a hard stretch of games coming up in January," Weber said.

The Wolfpack, which won only one game in the tourney a year ago, was led by Division III recruits Taute (19 points, 7 rebounds) and Maureen Regan (11 points, 5 steals, 3 rebounds) and junior Audrey Mahoney (14 points).

"We were a little COVID-stricken (last winter) so it's nice to be back here healthy," Doyle said. "We love it here. St. Viator does such a nice job organizing everything."

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