FRANKFORT – After Lincoln-Way East’s girls basketball team jumped out to a 20-4 lead over Providence Catholic early in the second quarter of Thursday’s championship game in its Medieval Classic Holiday Tournament, it seemed reasonable to believe that the Griffins were well on their way to capturing a fifth straight title.
But that was news to the Celtics, who had no intention of giving up in their first Medieval Classic finals appearance since 2014. They began to chip away at the big deficit and got to within two points early in the second half and closed to within a point late, but East made just enough key baskets and free throws to help it hang on for a 46-43 victory.
“I thought in the first quarter, the seniors kind of set the tone,” Griffins coach Jim Nair said. “We had a really good first quarter, and we definitely needed that cushion because with the way they shoot the ball, they weren’t going to go away. They really did a great job at the free-throw line and kept chipping away, and we were lucky to come out on top.
“We’re lucky that our administration hosts this for us, and it’s nice to stay home over the holidays. Anytime you can go against great teams like Glenbard West last year and Marshall and Providence this year, it makes you tougher for down the stretch.”
Providence (11-4) responded to the big early deficit with an 18-4 burst in the second and third quarters, and drew within 24-22 on a 3-pointer by Celtics all-tournament pick Lauren Knight, who scored 12 points. The Celtics’ Ashley Raymer, also scored 12 points and was an all-tournament selection.
Raymer scored 10 points in the second half, and Knight tallied eight, but Griffins senior Olivia Molnar also scored eight of her game-high 14 points in the second half, making two baskets and two free throws in the fourth quarter to not only help East (10-3) prevail but also help her claim the most valuable player award.
“We wanted to come out and show that we could win another Medieval championship, so we were ready, and even though they’re a good team, we wanted to jump on them,” Molnar said. “There’s a lot of competition here, but we’re always up to it. It’s a good feeling, and knowing this is my senior year, I’m glad I was able to show people we can do a lot at East.”
With Lilly Genis contributing 13 points and all-tournament pick Andie Perch adding 11, the Griffins overcame struggles at the free-throw line in the final half, which they began with a 24-17 lead.
While Providence was effective at the free-throw line, made few turnovers and had several offensive rebounds after the break, it didn’t shoot very well from the field and made only one 3-pointer during the game.
“We just kept knocking on the door and got to within one, and it was so close, but we just couldn’t get that play to go to help,” Celtics coach Eileen Copenhaver said. “We usually shoot a little better than 7% from the 3-point line, but we made 1 of 13 from 3, and that hurt. But credit to Lincoln-Way East, since they kept answering.”
“I’m very proud of my kids. They executed under pressure and did what they were supposed to. We grew a lot in this tournament. We were happy to be in the championship game, and we wished for a different outcome, but we’ll move forward.”