Despite winning more (four) than it lost (three) in December, South Side’s offense hadn’t topped the 50-point plateau and none of its players netted more than 11 in any the seven games.
That all changed for the Lady Cyclones last Friday night when juniors Jessica Hawley and Hanna Merrifield led a 59-52 home victory over Conference A-I rival Jericho. Hawley scored a career-high 22 points, including a clutch three-pointer with 1:30 remaining, while Merrifield added 16 points and eight rebounds. Senior Charnae Jenkins and junior Bridget McFadden chipped in eight points apiece.
“We’ve had balanced scoring prior to tonight, and up to 10 kids score in some games, but it’s nice to see some kids step up offensively,” South Side coach Katelyn Dunn said after her team improved to 2-1 in conference games. “We’ve been up and down a little bit, but I think we’re finally starting to believe in ourselves.”
Of Hawley’s seven field goals, three came from behind the arc. She added five free throws and doubled the team’s previous season single-game high of 11 points set by McFadden five days earlier and twice by junior Juliana Pellegrini earlier in the campaign. “Jessica has the capability to score,” Dunn said. “She’s just starting to get into the flow after a long soccer season. She scored from everywhere. She shot with confidence, and everyone else was feeding off her.”
Hawley scored nine of the team’s 14 first-quarter points, and the Lady Cyclones all caught fire in the second quarter and built a 37-25 halftime lead. Pellegrini’s work at the point was one of the keys, Dunn said. “Juliana did a nice job of getting the ball where it needed to be,” Dunn said. “She’s so versatile and good at reading teammates. She takes over when we need her to take over.”
The 23-point second quarter was not only the best for South Side all season — it surpassed any of its halftime totals through the first seven games. “We didn’t play too well in the Freeport Tournament,” Dunn explained. “We had a lot of turnovers and were taking shots out of character.
“We approached this game a little differently,” she added. “I usually give the girls a detailed scouting report of our opponent, but not this time. We needed to focus on us, and we did a much better job taking care of the ball and with shot selection.”
Jericho hung around, with Colleen McCormack (14 points) and Amanda Levenberg (11) leading the way, but it couldn’t overcome a 14-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
“Our conference is always tough,” said Dunn, who is getting solid contributions from top defender Juliana Hadjiyane, a junior, and Victoria Mercado, a sophomore who earned MVP honors of South Side’s Tournament to open the season. “We’ll see where we go from here.”
The Lady Cyclones host Garden City this Friday at 6:30 p.m. Dunn is looking for her first coaching victory against the Lady Trojans, who’ve won four straight in the series.