Ezike's huge night powers Lyons past York to repeat WSC Silver title

Sophomore Nora Ezike very nearly was part of last season's memorable run by the Lyons Township girls basketball team.

After some early varsity action, the 6-foot-2 Ezike was kept on the sophomore level by LT coach Meghan Hutchens for more game experience.

"It really helped that I got a little time on varsity because I was getting used to it for this year," Ezike said. "I worked a lot on the offseason getting better because I wanted to get a starting spot. I worked hard and was able to get it."

On Friday, the rapidly rising star helped the Lions get a second straight undefeated West Suburban Conference Silver championship. Ezike's varsity single-game bests of 22 points and 17 rebounds helped LT beat second-place York 57-50 in La Grange. That included Ezike's 10 points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter, when the Lions (25-4, 12-0 in Silver) extended a 42-37 lead after three quarters to 56-44 with 1:19 left.

"I'm really excited that we won and didn't have to share the title," Ezike said. "It got a little close at times but it was good to keep staying strong and getting the points back to keep the lead."

LT junior Elin O'Brien had 13 points behind furious 4-for-5 three-point shooting in the first quarter. Senior Ally Cesarini (11 points with 3 threes) and junior Kennedy Wanless (13 rebounds) added double-digit contributions and senior Ella Ormsby had five assists.

York (21-6, 10-2) was led by senior Mariann Blass' 18 points with four rebounds and three steals, followed by Allison Sheehan (11 points), Stella Kohl (8 points, 6 rebounds) and Hannah Meyers (9 points, all in second half).

LT and York are the No. 2 seeds in their respective Class 4A sectionals (Proviso East and New Trier). The Lions' 28-4 Class 4A sectional finalists last season also went 12-0 in the Silver.

"Personally for me, a tie doesn't feel like a win so it felt good to go 12-0," Cesarini said. "Every time we got a bigger lead, they just kept coming back. They're feisty like that. We knew it was going to be a good game and I'm glad we were able to pull through and win."

York closed to 46-42 on Kohl's three with 5:33 left and had another possession to get closer but committed a turnover. From there, Ezike made 6 for 8 free throws and fed Wanless for a baseline jumper. Ezike also helped LT dominate 40-26 in rebounds and lead 10-2 in putback points, eight by Ezike.

"She's worked really hard and trained a lot over the summer. She's going to be a lot of fun to watch over the next few years," Hutchens said. "York is a phenomenal team. They shoot well. They attack the basket well. And then that zone is always aggressive. They're great competitors but I though our girls did the right things to get the win, which was take care of the ball when we needed and get the ball inside."

The Lions' eight threes started with 7-for-15 first-half shooting to build a 35-26 lead. LT outscored York 10-0 over the last two minutes of the first and second quarters. The Dukes began the second half with a Meyers three and Blass jumper in the lane to close to 37-31. By the game's final 30 seconds, they outscored LT 6-1 after two points on free throws over the previous five minutes.

"Every time we got down a little bit, we'd make a run. And then we just we just couldn't finish around the basket. We didn't rebound very well," York coach Brandon Collings said. "I'm proud of our girls. We fought back. We played hard. A couple of things didn't go our way and then that's maybe a different game. We've got the playoffs to show that hopefully."

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