STERLING – With a 6:30 p.m. start, Monday’s girls basketball game between Erie and Newman was the first to tip off in the Sauk Valley for the 2017-18 season.
The games have started, and the Erie Cardinals found out that the game situations don’t always feel like practice.
In Newman head coach Joe Salvatori’s varsity debut, the Comets went straight to work and used plenty of defensive pressure to score a 61-31 win over the Cardinals in the Sauk Valley Shootout.
Newman’s intense zone defense frustrated the Cardinals into turning the ball over 32 times, with all but 10 of them coming via steal.
“We did a fantastic job on defense,” Salvatori said. “We pressured the ball, we doubled it up, and the girls were really flying all over. That’s really nice to see, especially at the beginning of the season.”
Each of the 10 Comets who suited up had at least one steal. Madison Craft led the charge of reading the Cardinals’ passes extremely well, as the agile junior had all four of her steals in the first half, after which the Comets led 31-18.
“It boosts morale to get a good win like this at the beginning of the season,” Craft said.
“I think it will push us to do better throughout the season, and keep this mentality that we had,” Craft continued. “We like to push the ball, and we did that a lot.”
The Comets had an 8-5 lead on Erie with 98 seconds left in the first quarter before varsity rookie Alejandra Padilla, a sophomore, made a 3-pointer to up the lead to 11-5. Newman was in firm control of the game after that point. Erie duplicated its first-half point total (nine) and turnover total (eight) in the second quarter.
“We got four out of five starters back from last year,” Erie coach Julie Schroeder said. “The expectation is we need to be better than what we were last year, and unfortunately I’m not sure we took a step forward. We kind of stayed in the same spot, and that’s what I just challenged them in the locker room with [after the game].”
The Cardinals put together a single five-point run in the third quarter with about 4 minutes remaining. Whitney Bramm scored on a putback, and Riley Redell made her second of two 3-pointers. After Craft and Cardinals post Skylar Steimle traded buckets, Newman led 40-25.
Nine of Newman’s steals came in the fourth quarter, with the Comets already well in control of the game. Padilla led Newman with 11 points and five steals, while Craft had a balanced floor game with four points, four steals, eight rebounds and six assists.
Lauren Wilson added a double-double for the Comets with 10 points and 10 rebounds, with six of the boards on the offensive end of the floor.
“We didn’t expect to score that much, either,” Wilson said. “We looked up at the scoreboard every once in a while, and were like ‘Wow!’ We meshed together well.”
Bramm led the Cardinals with nine points, and Steimle added eight points and eight rebounds. Erie is not fielding a sophomore team, and has all 15 of its players on the varsity level. Likewise, no sophomore game was played and the game time was pushed ahead 1 hour from a scheduled 7:30 start.
“[Newman] played really hard. They were aggressive and were at you all of the time,” said Redell, one of the Cardinals’ four seniors. “If you put the ball in front of them, they’re going to take it. For the first game, I don’t think we were ready for that.”
Sauk Valley Shootout
Newman 61, Erie 31
Star of the game: Lauren Wilson, Newman, 10 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals, block
Key performers: Madison Craft, Newman, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 4 points; Alejandra Padilla, Newman, 11 points, 5 steals; Skylar Steimle, Erie, 8 points, 8 rebounds; Whitney Bramm, Erie, 9 points
Up next: Sterling at Newman & Rock Falls at Erie, both 7 p.m. Wednesday