The Trinity basketball team raced to a 61-31 win over Vernon Hills at the ChiTown Showdown hosted by Whitney Young High School on Saturday. The Blazers (10-0, 3-0 GCAC Red) established momentum early with a 10-point lead after one quarter and never looked back en route to a surprisingly comfortable 30-point win over the well-regarded Cougars. Known for an up-tempo style of play, Trinity accelerated the pace of the game from the opening tip. The Blazers' best run of the game occurred when they scored 16 straight points during a demoralizing (for Vernon Hills) 22-3 spurt.
"We really emphasized pushing the ball and making sure we were running and also hustling on defense," senior guard Lauren Prochaska said. "We worked on trying to make them throw long balls and then we would come in and try to intercept those passes."
Sophomore guard Annie McKenna scored a game-high 18 points for the Blazers, while the DePaul-bound Prochaska chipped in 12 points. Amber Reese and Christine Olijnyk netted seven points apiece and junior guard/forward Patricia Stritzel added six points.
Kasey Firnbach recorded a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Cougars (8-2), who were playing without senior forward Lauren Webb due to an ankle injury. The Blazers, who limited the Cougars to just three points in the fourth quarter, placed their primary defensive attention on the Cougars' Sidney Smith.
"Sydney Smith is a great player. We knew she was going to score," coach Ed Stritzel said. "Our goal was to control her and get out on our own fast breaks and run. We're a fast team so we want to run. We definitely did a good job in that regard."
Quality depth has triggered Trinity's strong start this season as Stritzel has a bevy of talented contributors to call on including senior Lauren Sikora, junior Mary Dillon and highly touted freshmen Maria Kent, Emma Hayes and Porsha Sydnor.
"We're going very deep this year," Prochaska said. "Coach Stritzel told us that we're all definitely going to have to work because we're going deeper into our bench. Not everyone is going to have to play 32 minutes a game. Everybody is going to play and contribute to our success."
After enduring some injuries to key rotation players last season, Trinity still finished 23-5. This year's team appears even better equipped for the rigors of a long regular season and ultimately a deep run in the playoffs.
"It definitely taught the girls to step up," Prochaska said about any adversity experienced last season. "Having to step up last year really helped us ease into this year. There are no nerves now because we've all been playing together for over a year. We've developed great chemistry."
During their 3-0 run last week, the Blazers also crushed Queen of Peace 71-15 as Maura Molloy scored 10 points. Trinity routed Regina 60-21 behind Kaitlin Aylward's 16 points and Prochaska's 13 points and eight rebounds.
While postseason basketball is typically associated with more half-court sets offensively and slower, physical brand of basketball overall, the fleet-footed Blazers are focused on a full speed ahead approach regardless of the situation or opponent.
"It feels good," Prochaska said. "Getting good runs in and making a team play faster than they want to gets us excited."
During Christmas week, Trinity will play in four games at the Montini Tournament (Dec. 23- Dec. 28).