By Randy Whalen
Coming off a lopsided loss at the beginning of last week, Stagg was determined to play much better against a familiar foe.
For the better part of the game, the Chargers did just that in their matchup with Lockport. Then came the fourth quarter.
Stagg went stagnant for the final 4:36 of the game and the Porters scored the final eight points of the game to emerge with a 50-47 win in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover on Dec. 12 in Lockport.
Laila Barakat poured in a game-high 22 points for Stagg, but 19 of those came in the first half for the sophomore point guard. The loss was the fourth in the past six games for the Chargers (5-5).
“I don’t know what happened in the second half,” Barakat said. “They had some different girls on me. At the beginning I was knocking them down, I was feeling hot. It was a good game to start; it was fun.”
In the end, it was only fun for the Porters. It was truly a team effort for them as senior center Jenna Cotter and junior guard Miranda Oesterreich led the way with 10 points apiece. It was the fourth straight win for Lockport (9-3), which has seven of its nine victories by 10 points or less. The nine wins also matched the Porters total from last season.
The Chargers, who graduated four starters from last season’s 23-8 team, are trying to find their way with a lot of new pieces and players filling more significant roles than they did in 2018-19.
“Yes, we played better than we did to open the week,” Stagg coach Bill Turner said. “The problem is we have to do it for 36 minutes. We played well in the first half, we have to carry that through the whole game.”
The Chargers looked unstoppable in the first half behind Barakat, whose 19 points helped stake them to a 36-25 lead. They extended the lead to 39-27 on a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Gail Korbitz (13 points) with 5:45 left in the third quarter, but Lockport ended the quarter on a 9-2 run to close within 41-36 after three.
Stagg held a 45-38 lead after a trey by senior forward Samantha Webb (7 points) with 5:39 to play in the game. Webb got another bucket with 4:36 remaining in the game to give the Changers a 47-42 lead, but they never scored again.
Cotter (5 rebounds), who had six points in the fourth quarter, and junior forward Elena Knebel (8 points, 4 rebounds) scored on back-to-back layups to narrow the lead to one.
The Porter’s turned the ball over with just over three minutes to play and Stagg tried to stall, but junior forward Sydney Furr (7 points, 9 rebounds) made a steal with 1:14 left in the game.
Lockport got the ball in the hands of Elizabeth “Bit” Sochacki. The sophomore guard, who finished with eight points and five rebounds, drove to the basket, was fouled and calmly made both free throws as Lockport took its first lead since the first quarter with 58.1 seconds to play in the game.
Moments later, the Chargers were fouled on a shot with 46.6 seconds left but missed both free throws. Sochacki sank another pair with 31.4 seconds left to account for the final score.
Stagg still had an opportunity to tie, but shot an air ball against good defensive pressure just before the buzzer and the Porters celebrated the victory.
“We challenged the girls at halftime about their effort on the defensive end and their effort on the glass,” said Lockport coach Dan Kelly, who saw his team outrebound Stagg 18 to 5 in the second half. “As for slowing down [Barakat], we challenged Charlotte Fahrner to help take her off her game and for the post players to step up in the paint and get the rebounds.”
The score was knotted at 19-19 a minute into the second quarter. Then Barakat scored nine points in a 17-4 blitz that gave the Chargers their largest lead at 36-23 with 59 seconds left in the first half.
“We knew we had to take away [Barakat] from scoring,” Cotter said. “To do that we just had to come out with a lot more energy in the second half. We know what we are capable of, we just had to do it and Bit stepped up at the end. Her free throws were pretty clutch.”
Last year, Lockport lost twice to the Chargers in SWSC Blue play. Stagg moved to the Red side of the SWSC this season, so the teams will not play again in the regular season.
Barakat played more shooting guard last season but is enjoying running he point more, she said. She scored a career-high 26 points on Nov. 26 in a 74-71 win over Plainfield North at the Hinsdale South Tournament.
“It’s like you’re the quarterback of the team out there,” she added. “Some good seniors from last year are gone, and knowing that I had to step up my role. We still need a little adjustment on defense but I’m looking forward to the next game.”
The Chargers played Monday at Lincoln-Way East and are off until Thursday, Dec. 26 when the Chargers open play at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic.
Stagg opened last week by hosting Homewood-Flossmoor on Dec. 10. The Chargers lost 72-34 to the Vikings, who raced out to leads of 20-4 at the end of one quarter and 43-8 at halftime.
Stagg scored 26 points in the second half. Barakat led the Chargers with 12 points and junior forward Maggie Mintle added seven.
“We’re young and a work in progress,” Turner said. “Laila has been playing great but we have to have others step up and help her out.”