The first time South Side and Bishop Dwenger faced each other in girls basketball this season, the Archers ran away with a 21-point home victory.
When they played again Friday at Dwenger, more than a month after the initial meeting, the Saints were much more ready to battle.
“We definitely needed to stay a little bit more positive,” South Side coach Juanita Goodwell said. “We told the girls that Dwenger has something to fight for, it's senior night, it's on their home court, they're getting ready for sectionals. They were going to come out and give us a better game than it was the first time.”
South Side was ready and raced out to a 12-point third-quarter lead before hanging on to win 50-41 behind a game-high 15 points from senior Jaci Jones and 12 points apiece from Olivia Smith and Alaya Chapman.
Sophomore Lexi Linder led the Saints (9-10) with 10 points.
The Archers (14-9) led 39-27 midway through the third quarter, when Dwenger began closing the gap. Linder drained a 3 and then dropped a nice pass to Maggie Cheevers for a layup late in the third quarter.
When Linder hit a 15-foot jumper and held the follow-through early in the fourth period, it was a 10-0 Saints run, and South Side's lead was sliced to two.
“We needed our girls to keep our composure,” Goodwell said. “We started off where we wanted to, but toward the end, my girls might have put their heads down a little bit, Dwenger was fighting a little bit harder than we were toward the end.
“I had to call a timeout, pull the girls together and say, 'Hey just catch your breath and go out and finish them.'”
South Side did exactly that, getting back-to-back baskets from Smith to push the lead back to five. Dwenger had a last gap with a 3-pointer from Brianna Yager, but Jones scored twice down the stretch to put the game away.
Jones' final basket, which essentially sealed the victory in the final minute, was a fastbreak layup, on which she broke free with a terrific behind-the-back dribble in the open court.
“We want that senior leadership,” Goodwell said of Jones. “I thought her and Alaya did a little bit more toward the end in picking up the defensive effort.”
Jones helped push the Archers to a strong start, hitting an early 3-pointer and finishing the first quarter with nine points as South Side went in front 18-7. Chapman also had seven first-quarter points, and the Archers had two 8-0 runs in the opening period.
“(We were) just moving the ball, getting quality possessions and just finishing,” Jones said of the fast start.
Though the Saints weren't able to pull out a win in the final home game for Yager, Molly Ream and Carissa Wiegman, coach Steve Wiktorowski raved about the impact that three made on the program.
“(This senior class) means so much to me, because this is my first year (as head coach at Dwenger) and they came in and they were so accepting of what we were trying to do,” Wiktorowski said. “They are great leaders by example on the floor and off. They've really set the stage, I hope.”