With just seven points in the first quarter, St. Elizabeth didn’t start out looking like the top-ranked girls basketball team in the state on Tuesday night against No. 4 Sanford – and the Vikings knew that had to change.
“We went out there and we were kind of timid at first,” said senior Sabrina Hackendorn, who finished with 12 points for St. Elizabeth. “But we realized that if we wanted to do this – because Sanford’s a very good team – that we had to give it everything we had.”
The Vikings answered in the second quarter and held on through a back-and-forth second half to defeat the Warriors 53-47 at the St. E center.
“We started off with not a lot of intensity,” senior Macy Robinson said. “We knew that we had to play hard in order to come out and beat them. We did what we could in the beginning and knew we had to get it together by halftime and come out in the third quarter and attack as best we could.”
The Vikings (2-0) trailed 8-7 after the first quarter but outscored Sanford 18-12 in the second quarter behind junior Alex Thomas to take a 25-20 halftime lead. Thomas scored eight of her team-high 16 points in the quarter.
“It was our first intense game so we needed to pick it up,” Thomas said. “It was a good test for us. It was nice to see where we were at and how much harder we need to work.”
Sanford came roaring back in the third quarter as senior Alison Lewis scored eight points to lead the Warriors (2-1) to a 39-35 edge. Lewis finished with 12 points for Sanford and sophomore Chrishyanah Alston led the team with 16.
The Vikings’ Thomas and sophomore Gabby Julian combined for 11 points in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
Through all the offensive ups and downs, it was defense that made the difference, said St. Elizabeth coach Frank Aiello.
“I thought we played great defense,” Aiello said. “[Sanford is] so quick and athletic and I thought our kids – especially in the first half but towards the end of the game – they never quit. They got down a little bit. I know they were a little bit frustrated offensively. I could see it in their faces but they never gave up, they never quit. They kept battling and that’s what you have to do against a good team. And that’s a great team we played tonight.”
Despite the loss, Sanford coach Marcus Thompson said the Warriors came away from the game with valuable lessons learned.
“They were more experienced and it showed towards the end of the game,” Thompson said. “We didn’t get off to a good start. … Later on, it’s a hard mountain to climb if you’re in the number one team’s gym, the defending champions. I thought we had good effort out there. We’ll get better every day. It’s a great experience for our kids.”