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The Trinity basketball team may have been missing three of their top players, but the rest of the squad stepped up in the second day of the Chi-Town Showdown Tournament and toppled Milwaukee-Riverside 72-65 at Whitney Young High School.
The Blazers started the fourth quarter with a nine point lead, but the Tigers closed in with a 12-2 run to cut Trinity's advantage to two points with 2:51 to go in the game. Trinity junior guard Lauren Prochaska then drove to the basket on a breakaway and scored on a layup while getting fouled. After making her free-throw to put the Blazers up 68-63 with 2:45 to go, Prochaska made four more free-throws to cap off the Blazers' 7-2 run to end the game and seal the victory.
"We want the teams to press us in that situation," said head coach Eddie Stritzel. "We know Lauren is the fastest kid out there. We didn't want to give them half-court sets or start jacking up three-pointers. We were hoping for a layup there and Lauren blew right by (the Tigers' defense)."
Loyola-bound senior guard Taylor Nazon led the way for the Blazers with 28 points, while Prochaska tallied 13. Freshman guard Annie McKenna notched 17 points, hitting all five shots she took from behind the three-point arc.
"(McKenna) was stepping up big," Nazon said. "I know she was struggling because she's a freshman and she was a little nervous in the first couple of games, but in practice she hits every single shot. We knew it was only a matter of time before she came out here. She was playing on a big stage, and she's doing great."
After a tight first quarter, the Blazers gained control with an 8-0 run late in the second, capped off by a layup from McKenna to give Trinity a 39-27 lead. Nazon was excited to see McKenna's performance, and knows that her Blazers' young talent will continue to fuel them toward a successful season even after graduating players like Megan Podkowa and Alyssa Dengler last season.
"We're Trinity right?" she said. "People always think that when (our seniors) leave, then that's it. What's great about Trinity is we're a machine. So someone leaves, and another piece replaces that. You see that with McKenna, a freshman coming in. People always underestimate us, but somehow we work hard and find a way to come back."
The Tigers are among the best teams in the state of Wisconsin, so Stritzel knew that success in Saturday's game would take a lot of preparation.
"(Coach Stritzel) is an amazing scout," said Nazon. "It was in our game plan. Our game plan was centered on containing the big girls, and we're happy that we got that done."
With Trinity's leading scorer in senior guard Mikayla Leyden out with a knee injury, along with freshman guard Maryam Wilcher and freshman center Amber Reese out with injuries, Nazon knew she had to step up in Saturday's game.
"It definitely made me a little nervous," Nazon said. "But I just thought of Megan (Podkowa) and how she used to just put her head down and put the team on her back. I knew I had to do what I had to in this game."
On Thursday, sophomore Mary Dillon buried 7 of 7 three-pointers to finish with 21 points and lead the Blazers to a 78-31 Girls Catholic Athletic Conference victory over Queen of Peace. Prochaska and McKenna each scored 13 points apiece, while sophomore Patricia Stritzel added 10.
The Blazers, who connected on 13 of 29 threes against Queen and are now 3-0 in the GCAC, host Evanston in a nonconference match-up on Dec. 18 (7 p.m.).