The Spartans survived.
Elgin Community College's women's basketball team built a double-digit lead midway through the second half, then held on for dear life as College of DuPage staged a furious rally. When the dust settled, the Spartans hung on for a 66-64 nonconference victory at the Events Center in Elgin Tuesday night.
Jordan Bartelt and Alexa Diaz scored 16 points apiece to lead ECC, which moved to 2-1 on the season. Breanna Venson had 12 points for COD.
The Spartans took their biggest lead at 50-37 on a 3-pointer by Lizzie Panzica, but the Chaparrals refused to go away. Their relentless press caused the Spartans fits down the stretch, but the Chaparrals couldn't make enough shots to make a serious dent in ECC's lead until Jackie Bartnicki and Tashiana Walton nailed 3-pointers in the waning minutes. Walton's bomb made it 65-64 with 2.7 seconds left, but that was as close as COD could get. When ECC successfully inbounded the ball, the Chaparrals had to foul and Diaz made one free throw for the final margin. She missed the second on instructions from coach Jerry McLaughlin so the Chaparrals didn't have a chance to set up a play.
"That's going to happen with a young team," McLaughlin said of the wild finish. "You know what, we're going to make mistakes being really young. This is the first really close game that we've been through. I think we should be proud of everybody and the effort they put forth."
ECC, which advanced to the NJCAA Division II nationals for the first time last season, started slowly as the Chaparrals took a 16-9 lead halfway through the opening half. Later, the Spartans took off on a 14-3 run to take the lead for good.
"We just picked up the intensity, because we were asleep, obviously, for the first 5 minutes," said Diaz, a Bartlett graduate and one of just 3 sophomores on the team. "But after coach called timeout we got it together. We picked it up and it started to work."
Diaz also grabbed 13 rebounds. Jen Dumoulin added 11 points and Porsche Griggs 9 for ECC.
Donna Koerber had 11 points, all but 2 from the free-throw line, and Brandie McAlister added 10 for COD.
The game was largely a free-throw shooting contest most of the way. The referees called 56 total fouls, with 5 players fouling out, and the teams combined for 78 free throws.
The Spartans were 23 of 40 from the line and the Chaparrals were 24 for 38.
McLaughlin expects to see lots of free throws early in the season, as both the NCAA and NJCAA have made it a point of emphasis to cut down on physical play.