By Kaleb Carter
The Sandburg girls basketball team rolled to the championship game of Hinsdale South’s Brenda Whitesell Thanksgiving Tournament undefeated on the heels of wins over Addison Trail, Hinsdale Central and St. Francis.
Then they ran into the brick wall that is Nazareth.
The Roadrunners soared to a huge lead, led 33-7 at half, and the game was never in doubt as Nazareth claimed the title game 50-21 to finish 4-0 run at the Whitesell tourney.
“We’ve been really prepared,” Nazareth 6-1 sophomore Danielle Scully said. “We watched all of their film, we scouted them, we’ve just been really prepared as a team.”
Scully scored 16 points, all in the first half, as Nazareth’s defense fed into transition buckets and frequent looks in the paint for the undefeated Roadrunners. Between feeding teammates the rock, stepping out from the perimeter to sink a shot, driving to the hole and using her big frame to back down overmatched defenders, Scully looked nearly unstoppable in the first half.
Between a talented 2024 class that features Scully, strong 6-1 forward Olivia Austin and 5-8 guard Amalia Dray (12 points vs. Sandburg), as well as six other sophomores on the varsity roster, there’s a lot of reason to be feeling high about the Roadrunners’ future.
Senior Caroline Workman brings a steadiness and versatility to the floor that would be crucial in the postseason, and Grace Carstensen sank three three-pointers in the victory over Sandburg. Carstensen also scored 22 points vs. St. Edward and 17 vs. Neuqua Valley.
“Our routine at Nazareth is we stay quiet, we just play on the court,” coach Ed Stritzel said. “We feel we have an amazing group of 2024s. They’re just sensational. Grace Carstensen, our junior, can shoot the hell out of it. We can spread the floor, we have great shooters that spread it and then we have a really strong inside game with Scully, (Caroline) Workman and Olivia Austin. So I feel we have a lot of different pieces and we can play a lot of different styles.”
The defense jump-started it all, and between playing a pressuring man-to-man, an extended zone, a laid-back zone and other deviations from those looks, the Roadrunners seek to make defensive success their identity. Between the four games, the Roadrunners yielded just 73 points (final scores: 66-9 vs. St. Edward; 43-11 vs. Neuqua Valley; 66-32 vs. Stagg; 21 50-21 vs.Sandburg).
“We’re a really dynamic team,” Stritzel said. “We can put people a lot of difficult spots with multiple defenses. Our defense is our calling card. We’re fast, athletic and long. We knew Sandburg had some shooters … We thought our girls did a really good job of knowing where they were on the court all the time.
“We’re a very fast, athletic team, and we like to play up style,” he added. “We don’t have to press in the full court, we do a lot of stuff in the half court and it causes teams a lot of problems.”