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The Trinity basketball team hasn't missed a beat this season despite losing some of their top players to injuries, and Saturday's Girls Catholic Athletic Conference championship game was the culmination of how they've stepped up all season long.
The Blazers (22-3, 10-1) defeated Mother McAuley 51-40 in River Forest to clinch their third straight GCAC title and fifth in the last seven years. With the game tied at 28 going into the fourth quarter, sophomore guard Patricia Stritzel started a 9-0 run for the Blazers with a three-pointer from the right side, her third of the game.
"I like to be able to come in and help out in that situation," said Stritzel, who is the daughter of Trinity head coach Ed Stritzel. "It was tied up (at the end of the third quarter), so everyone got nervous. The three-pointers always help, so I tried to help with that."
Stritzel tallied a total of 11 points for the Blazers, with a varsity career-high three buckets from behind the arc. Senior guard Taylor Nazon led the team with 14 points and was a perfect 10-for-10 on free-throws. Freshman guard Allie McKenna notched nine points, including a three-pointer from the middle to put the Blazers up 28-23 midway through the third quarter. Stritzel is just one example of the young talent that can step up for the Blazers, as their JV team checks in at 23-1 on the season, and she is glad to be able to contribute in such a big game.
"I started out just practicing with varsity," Stritzel said. "As the season went on, they had to bring more kids up so I finally got my chance."
McKenna scored on a basket from the middle for the Blazers' last field goal of the game to cap off their 9-0 run in the fourth quarter. Trinity then connected on 14-of-16 free-throws for the remainder of the quarter to keep their lead intact. The team ended the game with six unanswered points from the free-throw line to seal the victory. Nazon and the rest of the seniors were thrilled to be a part of the third straight conference tournament championship team at Trinity.
"It's fantastic," Nazon said. "(Junior guard) Lauren Prochaska told us that we'd get it for me and the other seniors. Hopefully this will get a little momentum going for us, and hopefully this is only the first of more championships."
The Blazers trailed the Mighty Macs by three late in the first quarter, but back to back three-pointers from the right side by Stritzel gave Trinity a 14-11 lead as part of a 10-0 run heading into the second quarter. The run was capped off by a basket by Nazon to give the Blazers a seven point lead early in the second.
"At the beginning of the game, we started off really running hard," said senior forward Shannon McGinnis. "Then we slowed it down, and by the end of the game we knew we just had to pull it out."
After a strong regular season for the Blazers, the team feels good heading into regional play for the state playoffs. McGinnis hopes to bounce back from last year's five-point loss to the Whitney Young Dolphins in the sectional championship.
"We're very confident," McGinnis said. "We did really well last year in the playoffs, and this year we just hope to get past (Whitney Young)."
The Blazers wrap up the regular season at Whitney Young on Wednesday, Feb. 6 (7 p.m.).