DIXON – A Brianna Richardson foul, a loud thud as Lydia Box slammed to the floor, and about 6 minutes of futility sums up what cost the Sauk Valley Skyhawks a chance at a win over Illinois Valley on Thursday night.
The final result was an 80-64 loss at Sauk Valley Community College.
Richardson picked up her third foul late in the first half, sending the 6-foot freshman to the bench for the rest of half. Box then missed a couple minutes after getting the wind knocked out of her during a frantic chase for a rebound.
Both were contributing factors to a 19-2 run by Illinois Valley in the last 6 minutes of the first half.
"The last few games, we haven't come out with very much energy, and we haven't been communicating very well," Box said. "I don't know why that's been the case. I think those last 5 or 6 minutes, we stopped talking and the energy was real low."
The rut started at the end of a rally by the Skyhawks (9-6), where they reduced an eight-point deficit to two points at 28-26. The last bucket in that stretch was a 3-pointer by Sheldeen Joseph.
As she did all night, Illinois Valley sophomore Arnisha Thomas lifted the Eagles on her shoulders.
She hit a jumper to put Illinois (14-4) up by four points. Thomas then inserted the dagger by scoring eight straight points, with two 3-pointers and a 2-point jumper on three consecutive possessions. The 5-foot-11 guard from Milwaukee was a matchup problem all night for the Skyhawks.
Thomas finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds and five steals.
"She was a very good player and hit a lot of big shots for them," Sauk Valley coach Jed Johnson said. "I don't think we did a very good job of helping out on her, but she made the plays when they needed them."
After the Thomas' eight-point run, Kara Kistenfeger hit a pair of 3-pointers that put Illinois Valley up 47-28.
Sauk came out playing stronger in the second half, behind spirited play by Joseph, who scored 10 of her 17 points after the break and also finished with seven rebounds.
"Sheldeen played a very good game in the second half, " Johnson said. "We expect that energy from her. I got on them pretty hard at halftime to give us more energy, and I feel like they did that."
The Skyhawks got as close as eight points at 49-41 with 14 minutes left, but Illinois Valley immediately pulled back ahead by 15 points.
Sauk rallied again to get as close as nine at 64-55 with 6:40 left, but could not get any closer.
"We just don't have a lot of depth," Johnson said. "We're asking a lot of girls to play more minutes than they are ready for, and to play out of position too much."
Box led Sauk with 28 points. Richardson had seven points and eight rebounds.
Kistenfeger finished with 16 points, and Asya Williams added 12 for Illinois Valley.
Star of the game: Arnisha Thomas, Illinois Valley, 37 points, 12 rebounds, 5 steals
Key performers: Kara Kistenfeger, Illinois Valley, 16 points, 5 rebounds; Lydia Box, Sauk Valley, 28 points; Sheldeen Joseph, Sauk, 17 points, 7 rebounds
Up next: Sauk Valley at Malcolm X, 1 p.m. Saturday