DIXON – Jordan Giddings made a splash in her college debut, and Aleena Hammelman shined in her first game in almost 2 years.
The duo led Sauk Valley to a 72-53 win over Lincoln in both teams' season opener Monday night at Sauk Valley Community College.
Giddings, a 6-foot-1 freshman and 2013 Rock Falls High School graduate, scored 22 points, showcasing her inside-outside talent. She was 9-for-20 from the floor, including 2-for-6 from 3-point range.
"I have the option to go out and be a shooter. I like that," Giddings said. "Most people don't guard me outside, because they think, 'She's just a big girl. She's not going to shoot it.' But, then they realize I can shoot, and that opens up the post."
"That's tough to guard," Sauk coach Jed Johnson said of Giddings' inside-outside prowess. "She's probably our best 3-point shooter. That's exactly what I had in mind for her, and I think she's having a lot of fun."
Hammelman, who became a mother in April, did a little bit of everything and turned in a double-double in her first game since her senior season at Sterling High School in 2012.
Hammelman scored 10 points, pulled down 10 rebounds, dished out six assists and snared three steals. She also did not commit a turnover, despite playing point guard for the first time since her freshman year in high school at Sterling Christian.
"I was hoping I would have done a little bit better," Hammelman said. "But, I'm not too hard on myself, because it is my first game in almost 2 years. I definitely felt like I was back. I was just really tired, but my second wind kicked in."
"It was fun to have her back," Johnson said of Hammelman. "I've been looking forward to it for a year. She's made the transition to the one [point guard]. I know she was worried about that, but she did a heck of a job."
Giddings, Hammelman and company controlled the action throughout. The Skyhawks went up by double digits less than 8 minutes into the action and led by double figures the rest of the way.
Sauk jumped in front 10-3 just over 3 minutes into the action, thanks to five quick points from Giddings and three from Hammelman.
Soon, the Skyhawks upped the margin to 25-9 with more than 8 minutes left in the first half. Giddings hit her second early 3 in the push, which also included four points apiece from Dixon's Rebecca Hendley (7 points) and Amboy's Autumn Smith, who had 10 points and six rebounds.
Sauk led 34-21 at the half.
The Skyhawks opened the second half with a 13-2 tear to build a 46-23 advantage. Giddings scored the first six points of the blitz. But, just when it looked like Sauk was about to deliver the knockout blow, Lincoln fought back.
The Lynx scored the next nine points to make it 46-34 with 12:04 to play. They cut the gap to 11 at 49-38 with 9:40 remaining, but that was as close as it would get.
Sauk built back up to a 23-point lead twice in the final minutes.
Sheldeen Joseph contributed 10 points, four assists and four steals for the Skyhawks.
Star of the game: Jordan Giddings, Sauk, 22 points, 4 rebounds
Key performers: Aleena Hammelman, Sauk, 10 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals; Emily Johnson, Lincoln, 12 points
Up next: Sauk at Olive Harvey, 5:15 p.m. Thursday