PERU - From the time Mendota came back from a huge deficit to post an improbable victory over St. Bede in mid-December, there was a target on its back. That target became even larger when MHS landed the top seed in the St. Bede Christmas Classic.
But the Lady Trojans didn't let any of that bother them. In fact, they almost thrived on it. That was never more evident than when Mendota dug itself another huge hole against St. Bede in the championship game of the St. Bede Classic. The Lady Trojans didn't panic, though, and proceeded to erase another sizeable St. Bede lead en route to a 65-62 victory on Dec. 29 at Peru. The win capped off a perfect 5-0 tournament run by Mendota (13-3) to claim the title.
"I couldn't be prouder of our girls," said MHS coach Kevin Geldon. "We found ourselves staring up at another large deficit against St. Bede, but we kept our composure and made a nice comeback to win the game."
With Mendota in front 46-45 after three quarters, the momentum quickly swung in St. Bede's favor to start the fourth when the Lady Bruins scored the first six points of the frame, all by Laura Sickley, to grab a 51-46 lead with 5:26 left in the game. A pair of free throws by Ally Bromenschenkel finally got the Lady Trojans on the board, but Sickley sandwiched a pair of floaters in the lane around an Ally Bromenschenkel hoop and St. Bede still maintained a five-point lead (55-50) with exactly four minutes to play.
But comebacks against St. Bede are nothing new for the Lady Trojans, and come back they did when Amy Devitt's three-point play keyed a 6-0 Mendota run to give it a 56-55 lead at the 2:39 mark. One free throw from Ally Bromenschenkel and a nice driving hoop from Brooke Carroll accounted for Mendota's other points during the rally.
The game was tied twice down the stretch before a Sickley roller found the bottom of the net to give St. Bede a 60-58 advantage with 1:05 left to force a Mendota timeout. Eleven seconds out of the break, Mendota's Karly Near was left wide open on the right wing and she drained a huge three-pointer to give the Lady Trojans a 61-60 lead.
St. Bede missed four shots over the next 43 seconds and Near was fouled with 10.9 seconds left. She calmly sank both free throws for a 63-60 lead.
But the drama wasn't over. St. Bede's Mo Dean scored a basket and was fouled with 3.4 ticks on the clock. However, her free throw at a chance to tie clanked off and Devitt grabbed the rebound. She was immediately fouled and netted both free throws to seal the victory.
"What a great win for us," added Geldon. "The girls really stepped up down the stretch with some huge plays that allowed us to escape with the victory."
Devitt pumped in 32 points to lead the charge, while Near and Ally Bromenschenkel each added 12 tallies.
A Mendota victory seemed a difficult task in the first half when St. Bede built a 25-11 lead in the second quarter. But the Lady Trojans closed out the half on a 13-0 run to climb to within a point at halftime. Devitt scored 11 of Mendota's 17 second quarter points. MHS scored the first basket of the third quarter to complete a 15-0 streak and give it a 26-25 lead.