ROMEOVILLE – At halftime of Tuesday night’s 43-37 win over Minooka, Romeoville held a players-only meeting before the coaching staff came into the locker room.
The subject of the meeting was playing with more intensity in the second half, and the Spartans did just that. They erased a 25-17 halftime deficit, holding the Indians to only four points in the third quarter and took a 30-29 lead into the fourth.
From there, they continued to increase the advantage, led by Laila Houseworth and Jadea Johnson. Houseworth scored six points in the fourth and Johnson had seven of her game-high 19 in the period. Johnson went 5 of 5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to keep the Indians at bay, and was 11 of 11 from the line for the game.
“We talked at halftime about picking up the intensity in the second half,” Johnson said. “We have 12 losses this year, and we didn’t want another one. We can finish up as one of the top three teams in the conference, but we knew we needed to play with more intensity to do that.
“Everybody picked it up, and we got our energy from each other. Once we started having that intensity we knew we were going to win.”
Romeoville coach Devin Bates was happy to see his team take matters into its own hands.
“We were coming to the door at halftime, and we could hear the girls talking among themselves,” he said. “We decided to let them finish. We were going to talk to them about playing with more intensity in the second half, but them doing it themselves made my speech a lot shorter.
“We ran more zone pressure against them in the second half. We were mostly in man-to-man in the first half, and they were able to score against it. The girls like when we go with the zone pressure, so we went with it.”
The defensive intensity transferred to the rebounding for Romeoville (14-12, 6-5), as the Spartans held a 43-27 edge on the glass. Arianna Nance (seven points) led with 11 rebounds, while Houseworth (15 points) and Johnson had 10 each.
“We really rebounded well,” Bates said. “Nance is only a sophomore, and she is still learning. Tonight she was really physical on the boards, and Jadea and Laila are the heart of what we have done all season. I am really proud of the way the team played tonight.
“We have been playing really well since Christmas. We had a slow start to the season, but we are turning into a team that no one wants to play in the postseason.”
Minooka (12-14, 6-6) got a strong performance from freshman Madelyn Kiper (seven points, four rebounds, three assists), as well as classmate Kendall Thomas, who was playing in her first varsity game.
“We thought about bringing Kendall up at the start of the season,” Minooka coach Jeff Easthon said. “She is probably the best ball handler in the program. She really did a good job in her first varsity game. We were only going to play her for about four minutes, but she did so well we left her out there.
“We just went cold in the second half. We were up eight at halftime and played really well in the first half, but we got outscored 13-4 in the third quarter, and it was a battle the rest of the way.”