February 8, 2023 Local Stories in and Around St. Joseph, Illinois

SJO girls’ basketball wins long-awaited season opener

The last time St. Joseph-Ogden hosted a girls’ basketball game before Thursday night, it had a good ending for the Spartans.

SJO beat Villa Grove/Heritage 50-34 on Feb. 13, 2020 to win a Class 2A regional title for the third consecutive season.

Thursday night featured another solid ending for SJO — and perhaps a sense of relief, too.

Playing for the first time in the pandemic-abbreviated season and playing the program’s first game in almost a year, SJO defeated visiting Villa Grove/Heritage 47-33 in the Spartans’ season opener.

A limited crowd saw the Spartans take an 11-10 lead at the end of the first quarter that extended slightly to 21-17 at halftime.

But a strong third quarter by the Spartans (1-0) made sure they would enjoy their return to basketball with a win as SJO outscored the Blue Devils 18-8 in the third quarter to go ahead 39-25 to start the fourth quarter.

Ella Armstrong scored a team-high 15 points and drained two three-pointers to spark SJO. Payton Jacob also reached double figures with 10 points, with Jacob scoring seven points after halftime. Alyssa Hamilton and Taylor Wells each chipped in five points, while Atleigh Hamilton (four points), Taylor Campbell (two points), Abby Behrens (two points) and Taylor Hug (two points) also dented the scoring column for the Spartans, who finished a robust 12 of 15 at the free throw line.

SJO is set to begin Illini Prairie Conference action at 7 p.m. next Monday at St. Thomas More, the second game for the Spartans in what is a 12-game schedule crammed into the next month.

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