Girls basketball: Marengo recovers from slow start to beat Woodstock North in KRC opener

Marengo’s Emily Kirchhoff goes to the hoop against Woodstock North in varsity girls basketball at Marengo Tuesday evening.

MARENGO – With her team held scoreless for the first five minutes Tuesday, Marengo coach Elisa Hanson looked for somebody to give the Indians a much-needed spark against Woodstock North.

Senior point guard Emily Kirchhoff was there to lift Marengo with tough defense and timely shots.

“I’ve always loved her speed and what she brings,” Hanson said. “She had some tough runners to get us started, and that’s what we needed from her tonight. Her spark, her energy, sometimes forcing the issue. She did a great job of getting us into our offense.”

Once the Indians got going, they didn’t stop.

Marengo found its offensive groove and went on to defeat Woodstock North 58-43 in the Kishwaukee River Conference opener.

After the slow offensive start, the Indians (2-3, 1-0 KRC) poured in 58 points over the final 27 minutes. Junior guard Gabby Gieseke (three 3-pointers) and junior forward Dayna Carr both tallied 15 points to lead the Indians.

Kirchhoff, who is taking over as the team’s point guard after the graduation of All-KRC member and team captain Addie Johnson, had 10 points and made four steals on defense. Late in the first quarter, she hit a one-handed runner that seemed to open up the offense for the Indians.

“We had a few good runs to get us started, and we just really came together as a team to get through it,” Kirchhoff said. “I think at first we weren’t really running our offense, but once we got a few good looks we started to put it together.

“Hopefully, this shows other teams how strong we can be.”

Hanson said Marengo has experienced a few offensive lulls already, but that was to be expected with some big losses to graduation.

“There’s a lot of growing pains with that,” Hanson said. “When you lose three seniors that contribute a lot, especially Addie Johnson who has been a floor captain for the last three or four years, it’s going to be a big adjustment. Once we see it go through the hoop once, then everyone settles down a little bit.”

Marengo led 24-13 at halftime, but couldn’t shake North (2-3, 0-1) in the third quarter, thanks in large part to the hot shooting of sophomore guard Addy Crabill, who had a team-best 12 points and four 3s.

Crabill, North’s leading scorer through five games, hit her second 3 of the second half to cut Marengo’s lead to 26-22 with with 5:29 left in the quarter.

Marengo’s Emilie Polizzi, right, and Keatyn Velasquez, left, battle Woodstock North’s Caylin Stevens, center, in varsity girls basketball at Marengo Tuesday evening.

“She’s been great for us,” North coach Jay Justice said. “As a sophomore, she shows a lot of composure. Her playing varsity last year as a freshman was important to get her to the point she’s at right now. She’s just shooting the ball really well for us.

“She’s doing everything that’s asked of her, so we’re really thrilled.”

Marengo broke the game open in the fourth quarter, scoring the first seven points to take a 47-30 lead.

Carr, Marengo’s tallest player at 6-foot-2, scored all 15 of her points in the second half. North didn’t have an answer.

“My teammates found me, which I was very grateful for,” said Carr, who was 7-of-11 shooting. “Even when we’re down, we know we can keep our energy up.”

Emily Polizzi scored seven points for Marengo, Keatyn Velasquez had six points, and Madison Cannon tossed in five. For North, Caylin Stevens scored seven points, and Addi Rishling, Bella Borta and Addy Saunders each had five.

Hanson was thrilled to start off the KRC season with a win over a big rival. Marengo has won four out of the past five conference titles.

“Each year when I see Woodstock North first on the schedule, I’m like, ‘Oh man, you couldn’t have given us an easier one?’ ” Hanson said. “You know it’s always going to be a battle against them, so it’s good to get this one out of the way.”