Immaculate Heart Academy might be young, with three freshmen in the starting lineup. But the Blue Eagles have already taken significant strides just three games into the season.
This still is only the beginning. “I have a lot of confidence in our group,” coach Steve Silver said. “Although they’re young, I think it’s just a matter of time. We need to be put in these situations over and over again.” Playing a strong defense and efficient offense, Immaculate Heart earned a 55-39 victory over Kennedy in a Big North crossover game on Tuesday night.
Sophomore Eliyah Herriott led the Blue Eagles with 11 points, senior Katie Jones and junior Anna Walsh each added 10 while freshman Emma Matesic chipped in nine.
This was the first loss of the season for the Lady Knights, who are without senior forward Tajae Stevenson after she tore her ACL during the summer. But MarQuette Burgess said his team will not use that as a “crutch.”
Immaculate Heart began the second half with a 25-16 lead, but Kennedy fought back.
Cha’liya Brown drained a three-pointer from the left corner mark to bring the Lady Knights to within three points, then Taylor Yancey was fouled shooting a three about a minute later. Yancey made all three free throws to tie the game. Walsh hit two foul shots at the other end, starting a 9-2 run for the Blue Eagles Matesic converted a three-point play at the 3:40 mark to give IHA a 45-33 lead, and it held a double-digit lead until the end of the game.
It was about as strong a performance as Silver could’ve hoped for a young team this early in the season. The Blue Eagles opened with an overtime win over rival Paramus Catholic, then lost to St. Francis (N.Y.) in overtime two days later. Those two games included turnovers and youthful mistakes. But Silver saw marked improvement on Tuesday.
Fewer turnovers. Better shots. Crisper passes.
“It really was a world of difference of what I’d seen in the first two games,” Silver said.
Jones hit a three at the end of the first quarter to put the Blue Eagles up, 13-7. A layup from Samantha Rinaldi and a second-chance basket from Anna Morris gave IHA a 10-point lead.
O’leyshea Braxton, though, scored all nine of her team’s points in the second quarter to keep Kennedy within reach. But the Blue Eagles pulled away in the end.
Jones came into the season knowing she needed to be a leader as the only returning starter, especially with three other freshmen playing such big roles.
She trusts them on the floor, though, and Tuesday night showed why.