SANDWICH — Way back in early November, the Sandwich girls basketball team started its season with a resounding 32-point win over Hinckley-Big Rock at the annual Somonauk Breakout Tournament.
Fast forward almost two months later into another matchup with the Lady Royals, and it’s quite amazing how the Indians fortunes have skyrocketed in such a dramatic way.
Sandwich once again easily dispatched HBR, this time by a 50-20 margin on Wednesday.
As usual, Sandwich (20-0) — the No. 9-ranked team in the current Associated Press Class 3A Poll — used its relentless fullcourt defensive pressure to force 26 HBR turnovers. The Indians have now held opponents to just 27.5 points per game.
Sandwich also shot a sparkling 23 of 51 (45 percent) from the field with all players adding at least one basket on the night.
Sophomore post player Josie Ness led the way for Sandwich with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. Juniors Ava Knepper and Jaylynn Vana followed with 11 and nine points, respectively, while sophomore Claire Roberts came off the bench to notch seven points.
"Tonight our defense was strong as it has been all year, but we shot the ball so much better than we did in our last game against Somonauk," Sandwich coach Chris Johnson said. "It was a well-rounded offensive effort, and everybody stepped up and did something. Every win from here for us is breaking our own record for victories in a season, and I'm so happy for the girls after another great performance."
HBR (6-14) received a team-best 10 points from senior Tomi Harrod, but the Lady Royals shot only 8 of 32 (25 percent) off the floor and coughed the ball up way too many times once again versus the staunch Sandwich defensive pressure.
"I thought we did a much better job of handling the ball against them this time than we did the last time we played at Somonauk," said HBR coach Doug Brewington. "But they were still like sharks in the water tonight, and when we'd make a turnover they smelled that blood again and feasted on it.
“They're 20-0 for a reason, and I told the girls we should hold our heads high after competing against such a great team like Sandwich."
In a low-scoring first quarter, Josie Ness established herself inside with five points and five rebounds, and the Lady Indians led 7-2 after eight minutes.
"I was getting the ball inside, and I hit a couple of shots which got us started," Josie Ness said. "I was open on the block, and that's where I got most of my points tonight with some nice dishes from my teammates."
She'd add four more in the second quarter along with five from Roberts, including a top-of-the-key 3-pointer at 4:10, as well as two buckets from Knepper that closed out the first half with Sandwich ahead 22-6.
Knepper would then add five in the third period after a three-point play at 5:45 along with a 10-foot jumper at the three-minute mark that helped put her team ahead 37-14 with one quarter to contest.
"I've had a rough time recently, and I've been off lately with my shot," Knepper said. "But tonight I came out a lot better in the second half, and I was happy with how I performed with the help of my teammates."
Sandwich then hit its first six shots of the fourth quarter to go up by 30, and a running clock ensued.
"I just want the girls to feel good about what they've accomplished so far and stay relaxed moving forward," Johnson said. "We've got so many goals we still want to hit, but we have to enjoy what we've done so far, and hopefully that will fuel us in wanting even more the rest of the season."