Wilmette, Sports

Engels, Loyola respond in overtime to top York and set up sectional-championship date with Maine South

Watching a fourth-quarter lead disappear wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t defeating either.

Earlier in February, Loyola Academy came back late on Mother McAuley to force overtime, only to lose the game. So on Tuesday, when York came back on the Ramblers to force extra time, they knew all was not lost.

“They kind of had the momentum at the end,” junior Paige Engels said of the Dukes. “We’ve actually been in this situation before. … We knew it could be anyone’s game. We just had to keep our energy up and keep going.”

And it was Engels leading the charge, scoring 11 of her 28 points in overtime to catapult Loyola to the sectional championship game with a 66-63 victory Tuesday, Feb. 21, at New Trier High School in Northfield.

Paige Engels is fouled on the way to the basket for the Ramblers.

In the fourth quarter, the Ramblers held a seven-point lead with under two minutes to play, but they missed their final five free throws to aid York’s comeback effort.

York senior Mariann Blass (game-high 31 points) knocked down two free throws with one second remaining to tie the game at 55-55.

It didn’t take long for Loyola to reclaim the momentum, scoring the first four points of the extra period, while also forcing four turnovers and going 10-of-12 from the free-throw line in overtime.

“I thought that was the biggest for us,” Schoenecker said of responding early in overtime. “That’s the hardest thing to do, come back in overtime and be ready to go. … Kelsey (Langston) had to go back to the free-throw line, Paige had to go back. So turning the page there a little bit.”

Engels drained 7 of 8 free throws in overtime after missing her final set in regulation.

She said those misses were motivation.

“Because I missed those two free throws right at the end, I wanted to find a way to get it back so I tried to push and get some baskets,” said Engels, who also had three steals in overtime. “I got some open shots and we played good D.

“We just really wanted this one and that pushed us to take it over in overtime.”

Loyola’s Morgan Bruno sets up for a three-point attempt in the sectional semifinal.

Loyola led most of the contest, jumping out to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter, which ended with a 15-10 Ramblers’ advantage.

In the opening frame, the free-shooting Dukes missed their first 11 three-point attempts, while Loyola hit 3 of 4 from deep.

“I was (feeling good at that point), but then I thought they’re going to hit some,” Schoenecker said. “Again for us it was which person for them is shooting; that was more of a concern. If it’s the right people shooting it, we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.”

Blass caught fire in the second quarter, sinking four 3-pointers, as the Dukes kept pace.

Loyola freshmen Clare Weasler and Marycait Mackie combined for 13 points in the second quarter. Weasler finished with 12 points and also had the unenviable task of guarding Blass, who only had 5 points in the second half.

“They’re awesome,” Schoenecker said of the first-year players. “Clare Weasler has been outstanding. She had a good first half and is just fearless. And Marycait Mackie just does everything. She can knock down shots, rebound.”

York inched closer in the third quarter and tied the game early in the fourth. But Loyola responded to build a 7-point lead that it carried until late in the final quarter before York’s comeback and Engels’ heroics in overtime.

Engels has now scored 52 points in her past two games (24 in Feb. 27 regional win against Evanston).

“We only have three returners on our team, so only three of us who have been in these situations before,” she said. “Coach Schoenecker always tells me I just have to control the game and do what I can, look for my teammates and take the shots when I get them. I’ve been looking to do that these past two games so we can keep moving on.” 

Junior Kelsey Langston attempts a running floater for Loyola.

Ramblers junior Morgan Bruno added 8 points, including a big-moment 3-pointer in the fourth quarter. Langston added 6 points and 5 assists for Loyola.

Loyola’s victory sets up a sectional finale at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, against top-seeded Maine South (25-7), which discarded No. 4 Glenbrook South 61-41 on Tuesday,

Loyola versus Maine South is a rematch of last season’s sectional championship in which the top-seeded Ramblers downed the No. 2 Hawks 42-34.

“We know a lot of what they like to do,” Schoenecker said. “They are very guard-heavy and have kids inside with some length, but they are playing some different defenses than they have in the past. We just need to be ready for that, but at this point in the season you’ve seen a lot of everything we need to see.” 

joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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