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Willows Academy tops Elgin, earns spot in title game

11/21/2013, 7:55pm CST
By Gene Chamberlain

Willows Academy unleashed a first-half three-point barrage, then played just smart enough with the ball down the stretch to knock off Elgin 58-54 on Thursday at the Elgin Academy Tournament.

Willows Academy came to the Elgin Academy Thanksgiving Girls Tournament taking aim at Elgin, and most certainly at the basket.

The Eagles unleashed a first-half three-point barrage, then played just smart enough with the ball and hit their free throws to knock off the Maroons 58-54 to earn a berth in Saturday's championship game.

"We've got a very young team, but we're a very good shooting team," Willows coach Gerry Kenny said. "We practice our shooting a lot.

"Brigid Walsh got hot for us, then her sister, Maura stepped up and hit some."

Brigid Walsh made four first-half three-pointers on the way to 16 first-half points, and finished with a game-high 21 points. The Walshes made 6-of-12 three-pointers in the first half to help Willows to a 38-28 halftime lead.

"Walsh started out hot early," Elgin coach Nick Bumbales said. "It's kind of gone that way every game we've had. Teams have come out and hit the first couple shots.

"Defensively we played really poor in the first half, gave up 38 points and they played a whale of a game. Give them credit."

Elgin went to full-court pressure late in the game and forced eight turnovers in the final 2:45. But the Maroons couldn't quite eliminate a nine-point deficit with just over two minutes remaining.

Melanie Berg and Destiny West had four points each in a late run that got Elgin within 56-54. But Maura Walsh  made a free throw for a three-point Willows lead with 31 seconds remaining.

Then Elgin missed three shots and finally a Berg three-pointer rimmed away. Willows (3-0) locked it up when Eileen Stoll made a steal with nine seconds left and then hit a foul shot.

Willows center Bethy Hunt made 5-of-8 second-half free throws for 11 points before fouling out. Maura Walsh finished with 10 points.

"We had way too many turnovers," Bumbales said after the Maroons turned it over 36 times, including six straight just before halftime that led to an 11-0 Willows run to close the half.

"They did nice job and really took us out of our game," Bumbales added. "The first half I don't really even remember running a half-court set the whole time. It was a missed layup or a turnover and that really hurt."

Elgin (1-2) had 14 points and six rebounds from Berg, 10 points and eight rebounds from Abby Pierre-Louis and eight points and six rebounds from Jess Ramirez.

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