The Illini Prairie Conference title is there for the taking. And the St. Joseph-Ogden High School girls’ basketball team has done a stellar job at claiming the top spot so far this season in the 11-team league, producing road win after road win.
The Spartans carry a perfect 4-0 mark in conference play leading into Thursday night’s home game against Monticello that will tip at 7 p.m.
All told, SJO has won four of its first five games in 2022 and six of its last seven games. The Spartans (14-6) have relied on a steady stream of offense and lockdown defense to play perhaps their best basketball of the season.
SJO continued its solid play with a 43-23 win at St. Thomas More on Monday night. The 20-point Illini Prairie victory against the Sabers came after a tough 61-51 nonconference loss at state-ranked Mattoon this past Saturday. The loss to the Green Wave ended a five-game win streak for SJO that included a 46-26 win at Chillicothe IVC last Thursday night in Illini Prairie action, a 69-48 home win against Prairie Central in Illini Prairie play on Jan. 10 and a 57-23 win at Pontiac on Jan. 6 in Illini Prairie action.
Here’s a roundup of the last two weeks’ worth of games for SJO:
Jan. 17: SJO 43, St. Thomas More 23
The visiting Spartans started strong and didn’t let up, taking a 16-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and extending it to 28-10 at halftime and 39-16 to start the fourth quarter.
Peyton Jones scored a team-high 13 points for the Spartans on the strength of two three-pointers and making all three of her free throws.
Payton Jacob added seven points, while Taylor Wells and Ashlyn Lannert each scored six points.
Ella Armstrong (four points), Alyssa Hamilton (three points), Addy Martinie (two points) and Taylor Hug (two points) rounded out the scoring efforts for the Spartans.
Jan. 15: Mattoon 61, SJO 51
The visiting Spartans remained within striking distance against Mattoon, but couldn’t break through and suffered its first loss since Dec. 28.
Mattoon led 13-9 at the end of the first quarter, 33-23 at halftime and 52-35 to start the fourth quarter as Loyola Chicago signee Mallory Ramage poured in a game-high 32 points for the Green Wave.
Jacob led SJO with 12 points, while Addison Frick joined her in double figures with 10 points as Frick sank two three-pointers. Jones (nine points), Wells (eight points), Armstrong (seven points) and Lannert (five points) also made timely buckets for the Spartans.
Jan. 13: SJO 46, Chillicothe IVC 26
SJO didn’t show any ill effects of making a long trip to Chillicothe, scoring half of its points in the first quarter in a road win against the Grey Ghosts.
Armstrong delivered a game-high 14 points and made four three-pointers — including three in the first quarter — to lead the way as SJO led 23-7 at the end of the first quarter, 33-18 at halftime and 39-23 to start the fourth quarter.
Lannert was also dialed in from distance, connecting on two three-pointers and finishing with 10 points. Frick and Wells each chipped in six points, while Jacob (four points), Jones (four points) and Alison Kearney (two points) also contributed.
Jan. 10: SJO 69, Prairie Central 48
SJO relied on strong three-point shooting to produce its highest-scoring game of the season in this home win.
Lannert poured in a team-high 19 points for SJO, one of three Spartans to reach double figures as SJO led 17-6 at the end of the first quarter, 29-20 at halftime and 49-38 to start the fourth quarter.
Jones sank four three-pointers, including three in the fourth quarter, and wound up with 18 points, while Armstrong drained five three-pointers en route to 17 points.
Jacob (eight points), Wells (six points) and Hamilton (one point) complemented the high-scoring trio of Lannert, Jones and Armstrong.
Jan. 6: SJO 57, Pontiac 23
The first road trip of the new year brought about a happy return trip home.
Wells scored a team-high 14 points as SJO led 19-9 at the end of the first quarter, 39-17 at halftime and 48-21 to start the fourth quarter.
Armstrong joined Wells in double figures with 12 points, while Jacob (nine points) and Lannert (eight points) weren’t far behind.
Jones and Hamilton each added six points, with Frick chipping in two points during the convincing win.
After Thursday’s home game with Monticello, SJO is set to resume league play at 7 p.m. next Monday at Olympia.