After scoreless 1st quarter, Libertyville storms back to beat Loyola

Maybe it was the frigid temperatures outside, the moved-up start time, or the absolutely ice-cold first quarter 3-point shooting.

Whatever it was, Libertyville just could not get the offense going early against Loyola Wednesday at the Wildcat Winter Classic Tourney.

Libertyville tallied exactly zero points in the first eight minutes - but they were playing great defense and trailed the Ramblers only 9-0.

"Our shots weren't falling," said Wildcats junior Kate Rule, "so in the huddle between the first and second periods we knew we had to get something going. We made some adjustments and got more energy."

"We didn't really know what to expect tonight," added Libertyville senior guard Emily Fisher, who came up big down the stretch. "They (Loyola) are a good team, they were a lot faster than we thought they were."

And whatever it was that was bothering the Wildcats offensively, they got it going in the second stanza and beyond. The Wildcats took a double-digit lead, then held on late for a 36-30 win.

The victory puts them in the tournament championship game at 4 p.m. Friday against Warren.

"We just had to play harder," said Fisher. "They were faster than us all-around, so we had to want it more."

Loyola's Paige Engels was strong driving to the basket early on. She led the Ramblers attack, and when she hit a free throw at the end of the first period, Loyola took the 9-point advantage.

Then Libertyville came alive in quarter number two.

Junior Mandy Kopala got the Wildcats going with a long 3-pointer, and Fisher had a rebound and layup to bring the home team closer.

Then Fisher had a steal and layup, teammate Tayla Tillman hit a floater at the halftime buzzer, and just like that Libertyville led 16-15 at intermission.

Libertyville found their groove again in the third period, and when Fisher made a steal and fed teammate Rachel Rule for a layup, the lead was 27-17.

Loyola roared back in the final quarter. A 3-pointer from Julia Gamboa brought the Ramblers within 32-30 with about a minute left.

But Fisher sealed the deal in the final seconds. She made a layup, got a big rebound on the defensive end, was fouled and hit two free throws with 10 ticks left to clinch the win.

"Honestly, it was pretty rough," said Fisher of the final minute of the game. "We had a short lead so we were just trying to keep possession of the ball."

Regarding her big time rebound at the end, she added that "we just had to get that ball - that's what we all were trying to do. I got it and drew the foul, so it worked out."

Fisher led the Wildcats, who improved to 14-2 on the season, with 11 points and 8 boards.

Rachel Rule pitched in 7 points, while Tillman and Kate Rule scored 6 apiece.

"This is big," said Kate Rule of the triumph. "Loyola is an awesome team. We emphasized getting a win in this game."

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