ROCKFORD – It happened with 1:38 remaining in the third quarter.
Cary-Grove forward Olivia Jakubicek cut through the lane and connected on a left-handed layup between two Streamwood defenders. The basket was important for a few reasons.
It gave the Trojans the lead and it snapped a Trojans scoring drought that lasted 41⁄2 minutes. During that span, C-G turned the ball over on seven consecutive possessions before the Jakubicek layup.
But the slew of turnovers got the best of the Trojans as they fell to Streamwood, 45-44, in a Class 4A Rockford East Sectional semifinal Monday night.
“That was the thing that got us,” Trojans coach Rod Saffert said of his team’s 28 turnovers. “That’s what we talked about at halftime, was controlling the ball better. [Streamwood] came after us and I was impressed with the amount of pressure they were able to put on. You just have to hang on to the ball.”
C-G opened the game on an 8-2 run before Sabres coach George Rosner called a timeout with 4:32 remaining in the first quarter. After the timeout the Sabres started to play an aggressive full-court press defense that created problems for the Trojans’ ball-handlers.
“The pressure changed my scheme a little bit on offense,” Saffert said. “I had to get Olivia up there to handle the ball, which threw some things off.”
As the first half ended, C-G had committed 13 turnovers but held on to a 23-20 lead because of a stiff defense that was playing without its star defender in Joslyn Nicholson.
Nicholson played a little more than four minutes in the first half before she was removed after picking up two early fouls. Abby Glaysher and Kylie Smith held the Sabres’ scorers in check while Nicholson watched from the bench.
“It certainly changed us a little bit because she is just a threat on the court,” Saffert said. “Sure it would have helped, but we have been able to make adjustments all season long, and those players stepped up for us.”
When the third quarter began, Nicholson – who had eight points – made her presence known right away. She stole the ball and ran the floor, turning the steal into two quick points. She then assisted Jakubicek twice to get the team rolling to a 29-20 lead before the turnover began again.
“I think it was part of the atmosphere and all of the emotion in the gym that caused us to play like that,” said Jakubicek, who scored a team-high 15 points. “We lost our heads a lot and we lost the ball a lot because of it. We just lost control.”
Even though the amount of turnovers were glaring, the Trojans got back in it after a few good plays from Streamwood’s Jessica Cerda. Cerda, a Chicago State commit, hit a 3-pointer followed by layup to take a 43-38 lead. But after Glaysher’s back-to-back jumpers, the Trojans only trailed by one with less than a minute to play.
“We knew we had to shut down Jakubicek because she is such a great player,” Cerda said. “We knew she was going to attack, so we put out faster player, Deja Moore, on her hoping that she wouldn’t beat us and hoping that we could just hang on to the lead.”