By Sam Graf
The Holy Childhood 8th Grade Girls Basketball team has performed at a high level all season-long: running-and-gunning, knocking down outside shots, finishing drives with solid half-court offense, and forcing turnovers with relentless defensive pressure.
But recently, the Apaches added another dimension, which has made them an even more complete and dangerous team — that is, getting center Sarah Whittom into the serious, scoring mix.
And Whittom responded in a big way, last weekend, scoring a combined 51 points to help HC capture the 2018 Belleville Diocesan Tournament title — capping off HC’s outstanding 25-1 campaign.
On Sunday afternoon, the Apaches ambushed St. Clare of O’Fallon 34-14 to take the crown at Notre Dame Academy in Belleville.
They had opened postseason play, Saturday, with a 48-3 win over St. Joe of Olney and a 43-12 triumph over Holy Trinity of Fairview Heights. These games were played in Fairview Heights and Belleville, respectively.
“The Apaches’ aggressive defense and press, which has been a mainstay throughout the season, continued to be effective in every game,” Holy Childhood Coach Rich Thompson said. “However, the addition of an effective inside game with post-player Sarah Whittom contributed to our dominating performance throughout the tournament.
“We knew that we needed to get more offense from the paint, so we spent several practices working on a scheme to get Whittom the ball on the inside. The team executed it perfectly. In the three games, she accounted for 51 points.”
The Apaches jumped out to a 13-2 lead on St. Clare and blanked the Knights 10-0 in the second quarter. Whittom led all scorers with 11 points, and Sophia Loden, Katie Schneider, and Bella Hart chipped in eight, seven, and six.
After intermission, HC played St. Clare even up, cruising to a 20-point win.
Amazingly, in game one, the Apaches’ stifling defense limited Olney to just three points the entire way. They jumped out 19-1 and extended their lead to 32-1 at halftime.
Whittom and Schneider scored in double-figures with 16 and 10 points, while Loden, Beck, and Hart tallied eight, four, and three points. Playing the bench extensively, Jackie Amann, Emma Uptergrove, and Josie Athy also got in the scoring act.
Thanks to some great feeds into the post, Whittom exploded for 24 points in HC’s 51-12 victory over Holy Trinity in game two.
The Apaches jumped out, 24-0, and, once again, every player got an ample opportunity to battle. Loden came through with nine points, and Amann, Hart, and Izzy Hoerchler had three, three, and two points.
“I am so very happy and proud of these girls; it was truly a magical year,” said Thompson. When we started the season, they had one goal: To get a banner on the HCS gym wall showing the Diocesan Championship. We knew it was a long road, so we developed a motto: ‘One Team, One Game, One Win, and we lived by that motto throughout the season.’
“The stands were packed with Mascoutah and Holy Childhood fans for our championship game and the energy it gave our team was awesome.
“It was especially nice to see Mascoutah High School Coaches Seaberry and Heriford and some of their players at the game. It was a great way to cap off an outstanding season and to begin looking to the future of the MHS Girls’ program.”
Unfortunately, HC will not be able to participate in the upcoming Southern Illinois Regional Tournament due to a limit on games and tournaments during the season.
Initially, Coach Thompson was told that the Diocesan Tournament did not count toward the limit, but later, Southern Illinois officials changed their minds and stated that HC would have to make a choice.
“I left it up to the team, and they chose the Diocesan Tournament. They wanted wanted to win that banner. We are disappointed that we cannot participate in the Regional tournament. I think we would have done well.”
True. They performed admirably all season long and should provide local fans with some exciting times for the next four years.