Girls basketball: St. Bede dominates from start in Class 1A sectional semifinal win over Morgan Park

Bruins win first sectional game since 2013

St. Bede's Ali Bosnich lays up a shot against Morgan Park during the 1A Sectional game on Tuesday Feb. 20, 2024 at Gardner-South Wilmington High School in Gardner

GARDNER – Within the first minute Tuesday, the St. Bede girls basketball team established its dominance over Morgan Park Academy.

The Bruins swiped steals on the Warriors’ first three possessions, St. Bede scored the game’s first seven points and scored on its first eight possessions and rolled from there in a 75-24 victory in a Class 1A Gardner-South Wilmington Sectional semifinal.

“I thought we played well,” St. Bede coach Stephanie Mickley said. “We had them as prepared as possible. We just tried to keep them out of foul trouble, just do the right thing, stay fundamentally sound, work on a few things and keep everybody healthy for Thursday.

“It means a lot [to advance to a sectional final]. These girls have worked hard. They’re one game away from tying then all-time wins record for girls basketball at St. Bede, but we’re taking it one game at a time and they’re just continuing to work hard and surprise me. I’m very proud of them.”

It was St. Bede’s first sectional victory since advancing to the Class 2A Somonauk Sectional final in 2013.

“Obviously, it feels great,” St. Bede sophomore guard Lili McClain said. “We put in a lot of work. It feels good to show how we’re working.

St. Bede's Ashlyn Ehm lines up a free throw during the 1A Sectional game on Tuesday Feb. 20, 2024 at Gardner-South Wilmington High School in Gardner

“It’s really special [to win St. Bede’s first sectional game in 11 years]. To do it with people who I love and get along with is really fun.”

The Bruins (27-7), who have won 16 games in a row and are one win shy of matching the school record, will face Serena in the sectional final at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Huskers (27-5) advanced with a 55-44 win over St. Edward in Tuesday’s second semifinal. St. Bede beat Serena 44-32 on Dec. 22.

“Thursday’s game is going to be tougher,” Mickley said. “Serena, we know them. They are tough. They are a very good ballclub.

“We’ll just be as prepared as we can and see what happens.”

St. Bede used its significant size advantage from the start as senior forward Ali Bosnich scored on an assist from sophomore guard Lily Bosnich on the game’s first possession.

The Bruins then used a swarming defense to overwhelm the Warriors as Lily Bosnich got a steal and layup on Morgan Park’s first possession and McClain swiped steals on the next two trips down the floor, which the Bruins turned into a 3-pointer by McClain and a fast-break bucket by senior guard Ella Hermes on an assist from McClain.

“The girls are pretty focused, so I was proud we were able to do that without fouling,” Mickley said. “That was one of then goals we had on the board was don’t waste fouls. They anticipated well. We were as prepared as we could be, but at the end of the day they have to execute and I thought they did.

“We teach them to really watch where the ball is going, anticipate under control. They had some confidence tonight to do it and they were able to convert.”

St. Bede finished with 15 steals, including five by McClain, four by Lily Bosnich and three by Ali Bosnich.

“Our defense played a big role, which led to good offense,” McClain said. “We just pressured the ball and help defense played a big part.”

St Bede's Lily Bosnich lays up a shot as Morgan Park's Anna Sheppard attempts to defend during the 1A Sectional game on Tuesday Feb. 20, 2024 at Gardner-South Wilmington High School in Gardner

Ali Bosnich scored a game-high 24 points, while Hermes and senior forward Ashlyn Ehm scored 12 points each and McClain added 10. Bosnich sits 21 points shy of 1,000 for her career.

“We want the points spread as much as possible every night,” Mickley said. “Ali had a big night, but we want other kids shooting because if they tie her down, we need other people to respond and they did.”

The Bruins led 24-8 by the end of the first quarter and extended their lead to 46-15 by halftime. St. Bede took a 65-18 advantage into the fourth quarter to trigger a running clock.