Erin Dillon didn’t start this game.
But she sure helped finish it.
Dillon came up with some clutch outside shooting in the Class 4A Trinity Regional Final on Feb. 16. The unheralded Loyola Academy junior guard tallied a team-high 14 points on four threes as the Ramblers edged host Trinity 55-51 to advance to the Niles West Sectional.
Dillon got hot at an opportune time. She scored eight of her team’s first 10 points in the fourth quarter, giving the Ramblers an eight-point cushion, 48-40, with 2:33 left in regulation.
Dillon, indeed, was green-lighted in this win.
“I always tell her, ‘you’re a shooter, so be shot ready,’ ” Schoenecker said. “She stepped up tonight and knocked down some really big shots.”
Dillon loves the freedom that she’s afforded on the court.
“Coach [Jeremy Schoenecker] never tells me to stop shooting,” said Dillon.
The Ramblers (21-10), who will face No. 1 seeded Evanston in the sectional semifinals on Feb. 20 (6 p.m.), had everything clicking in this one.
Star point guard Julia Martinez ended up with a triple double (12 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists) to go along with four steals.
Just missing a double double was junior Lilly Wehman (10 rebounds, 8 blocks).
The other Ramblers scoring in double figures included Madison Kane (13 points) and Clare Nelson (10 points).
Kane was even more impressive on the defensive end. Despite giving up four inches of height, she did a good job of blanketing Lauren Lee. She held the Trinity standout to nine points on 3-for-11 shooting.
The 5-foot-11 Lee, who has received a number of Division I offers according to Trinity coach Mike Valente, didn’t take a shot in the third quarter.
“Madison has done that all year,” said Schoenecker. “That’s what you get from a three-year starter.
“And don’t forget that she played all 32 minutes,” the coach added.
LA came into the game with the higher seeded (No. 4). But No. 6 Trinity (20-10), which finished third in the state last winter, beat the Ramblers by 13 points, 43-30, on Dec. 13.
“We prepared a lot for this game,” said Dillon.
For Dillon and Martinez, this was a bragging-rights game. There’s a history. The two Ramblers have teamed up with most of the Trinity players on travel teams.
“Beating them means everything,” Dillon said.
No doubt, beating Evanston — again — would mean even more.
With its 67-28 regional final win over Taft on Feb. 16, the Wildkits improved to 25-3 overall.
On Jan. 5, LA defeated Evanston 45-41.
Thus, the rematch is set.
Loyola Academy Game Balls: Erin Dillon, Julia Martinez, Madison Kane
Trinity Game Ball: Alexandria Fanning
Player of the Game: Dillon
LA Stat Leaders: Dillon (14 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block), Kane (13 points, 7 rebounds), Martinez (12 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 4 steals), Lilly Wehman (3 points, 10 rebounds, 8 blocks)
Trinity Stat Leaders: Fanning (18 points), Sheahen Dowling (11 points), Lauren Lee (9 points)
Notable: Loyola set the tone early in this game, when the Ramblers jumped out to an 11-1 lead in the first two minutes of the game. “That hurt us,” said Trinity coach Mike Valente. “They got out of the gate quick, and we had to chase. We used a lot of energy to get back in the game. Then, in the end, they hit the shots that they needed to hit.”