Winning close games has become a theme so far this season for the St. Joseph-Ogden High School girls’ basketball team.
Through nine games, more than half have been decided by single digits. And most have gone in favor of the Spartans.
SJO picked up its latest victory with a 41-30 win on Monday night at Mahomet-Seymour, the third straight nonconference win by the Spartans on the road.
Prior to Monday night’s victory in Mahomet, SJO held on for a 41-40 win at Oakwood this past Saturday night and earned a 52-45 victory at Danville last Thursday night.
Strong defense and solid play by sophomore guard Ashlyn Lannert spurred the Spartans during their win against Mahomet-Seymour. The Spartans trailed 7-4 at the end of the first quarter before holding the Bulldogs to only two points in the second quarter to carry a 22-9 lead into halftime. Lannert scored nine of her game-high 12 points during the second quarter to spark SJO, who enjoyed a 33-20 lead into the fourth quarter.
Junior forward Payton Vallee added eight points against Mahomet-Seymour, while sophomore guard Abby Behrens chipped in five points. Sophomore guard Payton Jacob, senior guard Katie Cramer, senior forward Taylor Barnes and sophomore guard Ella Armstrong all finished with four points apiece to round out the scoring.
Vallee only scored two points in the win against Oakwood, but her free throw with 4 seconds remaining helped break a 40-40 tie between the two teams, which saw SJO trail 13-6 at the end of the first quarter before coming back to take a 24-23 lead into halftime and then hold onto a precarious 30-29 lead into the fourth quarter.
Armstrong paced SJO with a team-high 13 points on the strength of three three-pointers, while Behrens (seven points), Barnes (six points) and sophomore forward Taylor Wells (five points) all factored heavily into SJO’s win.
The Spartans took a sizable 29-13 lead into halftime at Danville, only to see it shrink dramatically to only 36-32 before putting together a solid fourth quarter and earning the win. Vallee and Jacob both ended up with 10 points to spark the Spartans, while Armstrong (seven points), Lannert (six points) and Wells (six points) helped deliver the balanced scoring that, on top of the close wins, have come to epitomize the season right now for SJO.
The Spartans’ next two nonconference games don’t get any easier. SJO hosts Teutopolis at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in a rematch of a Class 2A state semifinal game between the two programs last February that saw the Wooden Shoes win 50-31. And at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, SJO welcomes in Morton. The Potters are the defending Class 3A state champions and have won four 3A state championships in the last five seasons.