NEW LENOX – There generally are no surprises when Lincoln-Way Central and Lincoln-Way West get together for a basketball game, both teams very familiar with each other and knowing the other’s strengths and weaknesses almost as well as their own.
On Tuesday night, neither team pulled a surprise, and the teams opened SouthWest Suburban Conference Red play with Lincoln-Way Central pulling out a 33-21 win in which the Knights held the Warriors scoreless in the fourth quarter.
“Almost any game between two Lincoln-Ways is like this,” Central coach Dave Campanile said. “Me and my staff have been here for eight years, and [West coach] Ryan [White] and his staff have been there even longer. We are friends off the court, and we know each other well.
“It’s almost like playing your brother or sister in the driveway. You know what the other team does well and doesn’t do so well, and they know that about you. It comes down to the players making plays, and we made enough plays tonight.”
The Knights (7-0, 1-0 SWSC Red) made some plays early, enough to put them ahead for good. Gracen Gehrke, who led all scorers with 12 points, hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, and teammate Kiya Newson-Cole (six points, six rebounds) banked in a 3-pointer from the top of the key to help Central grab an early 9-6 lead, which swelled to 16-10 at the end of the first quarter.
West (3-5, 0-1) opened the second quarter with four straight points, getting a basket by Peyton Madl (team-high nine points) and a pair of free throws by Makenzie Roesner (six points) to cut the lead to 16-14. That was as close as the Warriors got, however, as Central got a 3-pointer from Gehrke and a basket by Lina Panos (11 points, 11 rebounds) to take a 21-14 lead into halftime.
“A game like this against another Lincoln-Way is rough,” Gehrke said. “We both know everything about each other. It always makes it a tough game, and it comes down to which team executes better, because we aren’t doing anything the other team doesn’t know we are going to do.
“We work so hard on our defense in practice, and we all know it takes 100% effort all the time on that end. We are working to be able to score a little more, because eventually we will have to, but, our defense will always keep us in the game.”
Central scored the first five points of the second half on a basket by Panos and a 3-pointer by Newson-Cole to move out to a 26-14 lead. West, however, wasn’t done and scored the final seven points of the third quarter on a basket by Caroline Smith, a pair of free throws by Reagan McCracken and a 3-pointer by Madl to cut the gap to 26-21 entering the fourth.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, that’s where their scoring ended. Gehrke made three free throws, and Panos made two to provide the final margin.
“I hate to sound like a broken record, but our identity is our defense and has been for a long time,” Campanile said. “It’s been more so this year, because we are still trying to get our offense going. It’s nice to have that life preserver of the defense.
“It might not be the most exciting way to play basketball, but to hold a team without a point in the fourth quarter will win basketball games. The girls have bought into that, and it has worked out great for them.”