ALGONQUIN – In the locker room during halftime, Prairie Ridge girls basketball coach Rob Baker tossed out the warning, just in case his team needed a reminder.
The Wolves’ sizable advantage against Jacobs didn’t really ensure anything. This game was far from over, and Baker knew it.
His girls listened. The Golden Eagles matched their total first half output in the third quarter alone to give the Wolves the scare Baker expected to make Prairie Ridge’s 60-42 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division victory margin feel a bit narrower than the final score may have indicated.
“I expected to come in here and have a really tough time,” Baker said. “Jacobs has been playing really good basketball, and we knew they would make their run. This wasn’t going to be easy, and I was nervous.”
The Wolves led 34-16 at halftime, which helped them weather the third-quarter battle. Prairie Ridge went ahead 40-20 at the 5:30 mark on what could have been a back-breaking sequence for Jacobs – back-to-back putbacks from sophomore Kirsten Voel-Pel and senior Maddie Drain, who grabbed the rebound when Voel-Pel missed her free throw on a potential three-point play.
Instead of letting the spurt sink them, the Eagles began shooting their way back into contention. Nicole Cook hit her first of two 3-pointers, and Teaghan Richman and Glenita Williams followed suit to pull Jacobs (4-16, 2-5 FVC Valley) within 11 points, 40-29, with 3:16 left in the third and force the Wolves to take a time out.
“We needed to get our hands up and take care of the outside,” Prairie Ridge sophomore Aly Clark said. “They were hurting us.”
Prairie Ridge (13-6 overall, 6-1) scored six unanswered points on two free throws each from Drain and Sarah Le Beau, and a layup from Kelly Klendworth, to distance itself again. The Wolves also clamped down on defense, getting back to what had helped fuel its first-half success.
The Wolves established their substantial lead by capitalizing on three straight Jacobs turnovers to begin the game. Prairie Ridge led 16-2 at the end of the first quarter.
The score swelled to 24-2 with 6:53 left in the second when Clark stole the ball, converted a layup and completed a three-point play when she drew a foul.
Despite the loss, the comeback was encouraging, Jacobs coach Joe Benoit said.
“For as bad as we played early, we responded really well,” he said. “We weren’t ready to go, which is something we’d seen early in the season but not so much lately. But we were just one big stop away from being right back in it.”