CHS girls’ basketball wins tight varsity youth battle
By JACKSON WILSON
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
The ability to consistently make free throws completely eluded the Carlinville High School girls’ basketball team throughout the vast majority of its home opener, but the tides suddenly turned and it ended up being a saving grace in the final minutes against Athens Nov. 19.
The Cavaliers, which were clinging to a slim lead down the stretch, let the visiting Warriors pull ahead in the middle of the fourth quarter prior to squeaking out a tight 39-38 win in a battle of two young squads.
Carlinville, which started the game just one-for-10 at the charity stripe, cashed in on five of its final six attempts.
With under 10 seconds on the clock and the Cavaliers trailing 38-36, Lillie Reels drove in for a layup and drew a shooting foul. The CHS junior split at the line and failed to even the score, but freshman power forward Isabella Tiburzi rode to the rescue by grabbing her team-leading 11th rebound and drawing contact on the go-ahead putback. Tiburzi put down both of her free throws for the lead and the Carlinville defense sealed the victory.
“If there was any lesson in the importance of free throws, it was tonight,” CHS head coach Darrin DeNeve said. “We could of had a little bit of a bigger lead if we had made them earlier but that’s a testament to never giving up. This was a nice first win for us.”
Being able to get into the win column less than a week into the season proved to be an even bigger accomplishment for a CHS team that had just one senior on its roster along with five freshmen who were already getting a taste of varsity action on a regular basis.
“The things that you can’t really learn in practice came into play tonight,” DeNeve said. “Those ‘end of game’ situations are best taught in gameplay so these girls will get an education early and often.”
Rising freshmen stars Tiburzi, Hannah Gibson and Jordan Loveless all played a minimum of 26 minutes in the starting lineup. The trio combined for 18 points with Tiburzi and Loveless contributing eight apiece.
Reels, playing post-foot surgery, also scored eight points.
CHS captain and senior Jill Stayton, battled through an adverse 4-for-13 shooting night from the field and ended with a crucial team-high 11 points. Stayton, who finished one rebound shy of a double-double, additionally triggered a 6-0 CHS run in the final minute by converting an and-one on a running layup with the Cavaliers desperately needing a quick score down four.
“Jill’s been a terrific leader so far for us,” DeNeve said. “She’s the perfect captain for this group.”
Carlinville, 1-3 overall, opened the season with a 39-29 loss at Williamsville Nov. 16, then followed up the Athens game with a pair of defeats against Camp Point Central (58-35) Nov. 20 and Greenfield-Northwestern (41-31) Nov. 23.
The Cavaliers host Carrollton Mon., Nov. 29 and travel to Vandalia Thurs., Dec. 2. Both games tip off at 6 p.m.