Girls basketball: Young Lockport players rising to the challenge

Freshman help Porters to victory

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JOLIET – There’s a reason the Lockport girls basketball team has three freshmen on the varsity roster.

You can turn to them in key situations.

That’s exactly what happened for the Porters in a matinee special that tipped off at 11:37 a.m. Saturday at Joliet Central. The host Steelmen had battled back to trim a double-digit deficit to two points and looked poised to catch up.

But it didn’t happen thanks in part to the efforts of Evelyn Ingram. The freshman forward scored six of her seven points in the fourth quarter as Lockport held off the Steelmen 42-35 in a battle of longtime rivals.

This week, it was the second close win for the Porters (10-11) who continue to battle to get back to the .500 mark.

“That’s good, and that’s what she needs to be able to do,” Lockport coach Darien Jacobs said of Ingram. “I get it, she’s a freshman, but she’s a varsity basketball player and did what was expected.”

Joliet Central (6-11) trailed 31-25 after three quarters but quickly closed the gap to 31-29 on consecutive layups by seniors Afrika Armstead-Lee (five points) and Aubrey Weems (11 points) in the opening 43 seconds of the fourth quarter. The Steelmen then had a couple of close-range opportunities to tie the game but missed.

Sophomore guard Laura Arstikaitis, who led all scorers with 13 points and added six rebounds, and Ingram then sandwiched 3-pointers around a free throw, as the Porters restored the lead to 37-30 with 4:42 remaining in the game. Joliet Central got back within 37-33 on a pair of free throws by Nevaeh Wright with 3:03 left but didn’t score again until the final seconds.

In the meantime, another freshman, Katie Peetz (four points), scored on a layup with 1:41 left and Ingram made 3-of-4 free throws in the final 30.5 seconds to give Lockport a 9-point cushion.

Ingram, who had a scratch mark on her face from one of the many tussles for rebounds and loose balls in the game, believed she was ready for varsity basketball before the season started.

“I’ve been preparing for these moments by playing with my travel team in the summer, so I was prepared,” she said. “Still, I didn’t know I’d be on varsity right away. But I knew my teammates would back me up.”

They did but the Porters still had to overcome 27 turnovers in the game, including seven in the fourth quarter.

“We just have to be more focused,” said Ingram, who added five rebounds. “We have to be more disciplined on offense.”

Jacobs, who saw his team nearly lose a 16-point fourth-quarter lead in a 41-38 home win over Providence on Tuesday, agreed.

“We get in these situations, especially in the fourth quarter, and we run around like a chicken with its head cut off,” he said. “We have to realize that we’re up and we don’t have to force it. I’m not a fan of stalling but we have to look for the best shot.”

Wright, who had eight points, scored on a layup one minute into the game to give the Steelmen their only lead. It was tied at 4-4 when Arstikaitis gave Lockport the lead for good midway through the opening quarter with the first of her three 3-pointers. It was 8-4 after one quarter and 20-14 at halftime.

Lucy Hynes, a junior forward who had seven points, scored twice inside in the opening 44 seconds for the Porters as they opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run to take their largest lead at 27-14. It was 31-25 after three.

Sophomore post player Armante Dambrauskas contributed five points and eight rebounds and sophomore forward Makenna Klacko (2 points) also added eight rebounds for the Porters, who have only one senior, Veronica Bafia. But Bafia wasn’t at the game. Sophomore guard Elliana Fowler scored nine points for Joliet Central, which missed over 40 shots and was 9-of-15 from the line in the game.

“We have to score the basketball,” Joliet Central coach Laura Brumfiel said. “We just have to move the ball better and if we score, we win the game.

“We play hard and have good kids but it’s just the little things. We put ourselves in a position to win. We just have to keep getting better.”