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Girls Basketball: Joliet Catholic taking same approach for Class 3A semifinal

Joliet Catholic's JnayWalker (left) Jasmine Lumpkin. | JCunningham/For Sun-Times Media

Joliet Catholic's Jnaya Walker (left) and Jasmine Lumpkin. | Jon Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

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CLASS 3A

(all games at Redbird Arena, Normal)

Friday’s State Semifinals

Montini (32-2) vs.
Burlington Central (27-4), 12:15 p.m.

Joliet Catholic (27-2) vs.
Quincy Notre Dame (29-3), 2 p.m.

Third place: 12:15 p.m. Saturday

Championship: 2 p.m. Saturday

Updated: April 8, 2014 6:19AM



If it is a sports cliche, so be it.

Joliet Catholic coach Ed Schodrof doesn’t care. His Angels have lived by a “one game at a time mentality” day in and day out this season.

Where did that mentality originate? A loss a year ago to Bishop McNamara in the sectional semis, which came as a huge shock for a team with the state championship weekend on its mind.

“I haven’t rewatched that game,” Schodrof said. “It was one game at a time this year because of last year. If we couldn’t learn from that, how much that hurt ... I’ve been hurting for a year.”

One year later, one game at a time, the Angels sit just two games away from the program’s first state title.

Joliet Catholic (27-2) plays Quincy Notre Dame (29-3) at 2 p.m. Friday in Normal in a Class 3A state semifinal.

“I think the pressure is gone now, and it’s time to have fun,” Schodrof said. “We beat three AP Top 10 teams (Morgan Park, Bishop McNamara, Washington) to get here. What a rugged path. It hasn’t been easy, but the girls have earned everything they’ve gotten to be here.”

The path doesn’t get any easier. Quincy Notre Dame is the three-time defending state champion, last season in 3A and the previous two seasons in Class 2A.

Don’t look for Jasmine Lumpkin and the Angels to play intimidated. The Michigan State-bound senior star wants nothing more than to finish on top.

“We knew we had unfinished business coming into the season,” Lumpkin said. “I’m glad we made it downstate, but we’re not done yet. I’m happy with what we’ve done this season, but we’re going down there to compete.”

Quincy Notre Dame is led by Mary Beth Hugenberg (16.3 ppg, 6 rpg) and Kristen Gengenbacher (15.7 ppg, 3.5 apg). Additional firepower comes from Quenna Keating (7.5 ppg) and McKenzie Foley (7.3 ppg).

Joliet Catholic counters with its 1-2 punch of Lumpkin (18.2 ppg, 9.1 rpg) and Nicole Ekhomu (14.4 ppg). A strength for the Angels has been the seasonlong development of two freshmen — Ty Battle and Jnaya Walker — in the starting lineup, with senior Christina Ekhomu providing a steady influence at the point.

Stars? Sure, but Lumpkin loves the team.

“Everyone contributes,” Lumpkin said. “We’re unselfish, and that’s what I like about us. We share the ball, we want to win, and we’re on the same page. When you’ve got that, you can get a lot done.”

Considering the program is two seasons removed from a 9-16 record, clinching a state trophy is a victory in itself. But no, the Angels want one big building block for the years to come.

“It’s crazy to think the program has turned around that quick,” Christina Ekhomu said. “We had a great year last year but an early exit. We’re building a nice foundation. It’s good to be part of this, making that history.”



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