SENECA — For a while in the first half of Monday's Interstate Eight Conference girls basketball game it looked like the fourth quarter would be anti-dramatic. After all Lisle was asserting itself as the consensus No. 1 seed in the league over hosting Seneca by chiseling out a nine-point lead with 5:53 to go before halftime.
However, a time out by Lady Irish coach Barb Beck seemed to get things turned around and because of it there was meaningful basketball to be played in the final minutes. When it was all said and done in the final I-8 game before the league tournament though, Lisle had managed to escape with a 44-41 victory when Irish guard Chelsie McCormick's heave ho from halfcourt fell short at the final horn.
Beck said the biggest difference between the early part of the game and the remainder was her team's patience on offense.
"They need to be patient on offense. Sometimes they treat the basketball like a hot potato," she said. "We're trying to find out who wants the ball and who is going to make the shots when we need them to so that we can be ready for the postseason."
Seneca opened the game 2-of-7 from the floor in falling behind 10-4. That lead then ballooned to 15-6 before Beck's timeout.
"We weren't being patient on offense and we also made a lot of turnovers," Seneca junior Danielle Hauch said. "I think a lot of it was our mistakes because we weren't being patient."
The Irish finished the quarter by making 5-of-7 from the floor before halftime to get the Lions lead down to 20-17.
"We started passing the ball and we scored," Hauch said. "That helped out. We played smart."
Beck said that Lisle's press was also part of the issue.
"You have to credit them and their press," Beck said. "It gave us fits. We weren't handling it smartly and because of it we were throwing a lot of balls away."
Seneca tied the game at 23-all mostly by playing its own trademark defense.
"The kids play hard on defense. I know I'm going to get that every night," Beck said. "But offensively we have to be more patient."
The turnover bug surfaced again at this point for Seneca and over the final 1:42 it was just 0-for-1 from the field with three turnovers. At the same time, Lisle got baskets from Sierra Birdsell and Kelly Urban to take a 27-23 into the fourth quarter.
At the onset of the fourth momentum continued to side with Lisle as Urban made two free throws, a field goal, a trey from Kristina Fernette and a free throw by Sarah Mogensen and the lead was up to 35-27. After a second timeout by Beck, the Irish once again put on a burst.
Erin Hovious hit a free throw at 3:31 and Hauch hit back to back field goals, the last of which came with 2:47 remaining and the Irish were right back in it at 35-32.
"We were patient and getting open shots," Hauch said. "Our defense put pressure on them and we were playing smart."
Essentially, over the last minute and a half of play or so the two teams traded points and the lead was at four a couple of times at 36-32 and 38-34 in favor of Lisle. However, when Mallory Misener hit a three pointer with 36 ticks left to make it a 40-37 game.
"Our press put pressure on them there at the end and we ended up getting a couple of baskets that kept us in the game," Beck said.
Seneca forced a couple of turnovers in the last 30 seconds but both teams made 4-of-4 from the free throw line in the stretch before McCormick's half-court prayer went unanswered.
Hauch ended the game with 13 points while Anna Baker added eight. Misener had seven.
Seneca is now 10-11 overall and 6-2 in the I-8 while Lisle improves to 17-3 overall and 8-0 in league play.
"We're the fourth seed in the conference tournament but we still have a chance to play them again," Hauch said. "It would be nice to win it because we won it last year and it would be nice to do it two years in a row."