ADDISON– Like most of her teammates, York junior Sydney Molis was more than a little flustered during the first half of Wednesday’s West Suburban Conference championship game with Proviso East at Addison Trail.
The Dukes were playing without their leader, all-conference senior guard Sara Krissinger, who was recovering from the flu.
“It was tough,” Molis said. “I knew it would be a lot more helpful if we had her, but at the same time we all had to come ready to play because we couldn’t do much about it."
The 6-foot Molis contributed almost nothing in the first half, but rebounded to score all of her team-high 13 points in the second half as York rallied for a 51-49 victory, snapping Proviso East’s 10-game winning streak.
The Pirates (17-11) led by as many as 10 points in the first half and York didn’t take its first lead until senior guard Sydney Fuglsang scored on a drive for a 31-30 edge with 4:44 left in the third quarter.
That was the start of a 7-0 run which Molis capped with a 15-foot jumper and a 36-32 cushion. Proviso East pulled even at 36 heading into the fourth quarter, but Molis responded with a 3-pointer and an inside basket and Carley Schwartz’s layup off an inbounds pass from Fuglsang gave York its largest lead, 43-38.
“Honestly, the first half was not my best,” Molis said. “At halftime I just had to relax because there was high nerves because there were so many people here.
“I feel like I had to come out in the second half and play like how I know I can play.”
Molis did so. Kendra Hatley, who tallied a game-high 17 points, scored on a layup to give the Pirates a 47-46 lead with 2:02 remaining, but Molis answered with a driving layup with 1:35 to go to put the Dukes (24-7) ahead to stay.
Junior guard Amaya Rufus followed with a steal, which led to Molis sinking two free throws to extend the lead to 50-47 with 25.4 seconds remaining. Those were Molis’ only free-throw attempts of the game.
“I just had to take a breath and try to block out the noise,” Molis said. “Like the same situation in the Downers North [a WSC Silver Division-clinching 41-34 win). I kind of thought about that and I had to calm down and hit them.”
The Dukes, who committed 24 turnovers, never did calm down enough to find breathing room. Kaitlyn Kjome, who had a game-high 11 rebounds, split a pair of free throws with 10.5 ticks left but Jaliyah Davis’s layup pulled Proviso East within 51-49 with 4.9 left.
Chantel Hairston then stole the inbounds pass and lofted a potential game-winning 3-pointer from the left wing. The ball hit the backboard but went right to Davis, who missed a putback at the buzzer.
“It was really nerve-wracking,” Rufus said. “We had to keep our hands up, contest and not let them get a shot up.”
While the Pirates did get shots up, the Dukes were able to gut out a win without their best player as Fuglsang, Kjome and Megan Juneman all contributed nine points, while Schwartz added eight points.
“Sara Krissinger is so big for us,” York coach Brandon Collings said. “She’s our calming influence. But this was her first day back at school and we weren’t going to risk it.
“We snuck one out tonight. They put some pressure on us, we didn’t take care of the basketball but we hit free throws when we needed to and we got stops when we need to.”
That’s what good teams do, which bodes well for the Dukes in the playoffs.
“It means a lot to us because it shows that we can finish out a game,” Rufus said. “We didn’t come out too hot, but knowing that we can finish games like this, we can go to the playoffs and do well.”