The race for first place in the Illini Prairie Conference is in full swing.
And the St. Joseph-Ogden High School girls’ basketball team is looking to keep pace with the contenders.
The Spartans won two of their three games in the first week of the new year, all coming against league opponents, heading into Monday night’s showdown at rival Unity. The Spartans (15-5, 2-1 Illini Prairie) square off against Unity (13-6, 1-1) at 7 p.m. on Monday.
The game against the Rockets came after SJO lost 42-33 at Olympia last Thursday, snapping a four-game win streak by SJO. The Spartans opened 2020 with a 55-19 home win against Chillicothe Illinois Valley Central on Jan. 4 and followed that up with a 42-25 home win against St. Thomas More last Monday.
SJO played Olympia even for three of the four quarters last Thursday in Stanford, but a decisive third quarter pushed Olympia past SJO. The two teams were tied at 4 after the first quarter and tied at 11 entering halftime before Olympia outscored SJO 16-7 in the third quarter to go into the fourth quarter ahead 27-18.
Senior guard Katie Cramer paced SJO with a team-high 10 points against Olympia, while sophomore guards Ella Armstrong and Payton Jacob each added seven points apiece.
Prior to the loss against Olympia, SJO overcame a halftime deficit against STM to post its 15th win of the season.
The Spartans trailed the Sabers 19-16 at halftime, but limited STM to only six points and one field goal in the second half to earn the win. Sophomore center Taylor Wells scored a team-high 12 points for SJO, with sophomore guard Ashlyn Lannert contributing eight points. Jacob (six points), Armstrong (five points) and senior forward Taylor Barnes (four points) also chipped in.
Strong defense once again helped lead SJO to its win against Chillicothe IVC. The Spartans led the Grey Ghosts 17-6 at the end of the first quarter, 29-1 at halftime and 47-18 to start the fourth quarter, holding Chillicothe IVC to only seven made field goals the entire game. Jacob produced a game-high 14 points and Cramer joined her in double figures with 10 points as both Spartans sank two three-pointers. Wells (eight points), Armstrong (six points), Lannert (four points) and senior forward Anna Wentzloff (four points) also came up with big buckets for the Spartans.
After Monday night’s game at Unity, SJO returns home to face Prairie Central (18-3, 1-1) at 7 p.m. on Thursday in a key Illini Prairie game before venturing out of league play for a 12:30 p.m. tip at Mattoon (18-1) on Saturday in nonconference action.