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Daily Journal
January 26, 2023
#76-26 KDJ

BBCHS earns All-City win at Mac in renewed rivalry

By Mason Schweizer

KANKAKEE — What used to be one of the most anticipated matchups of every girls basketball season, the Bradley-Bourbonnais and Bishop McNamara rivalry spent a few years on hiatus before the two All-City squads renewed their matchup at McNamara on Tuesday.

In a matchup that featured new coaches on both sidelines since the last meeting — BBCHS’s Liz Swindle and McNamara’s Khadaizha Sanders — and an entirely new cast of characters on both teams since their last meeting in 2019, it was the Boilermakers who got off to a momentous start and held off several McNamara comeback attempts to leave with a 58-51 victory.

The Boilers improved to 10-12 on the year while the Fightin’ Irish fell to 13-12.

“We were pumped,” Swindle said. “I think there were a lot of factors that went into the game, but I told the girls since last week that the team that keeps their composure the entire time would be the team that won.

“I think that’s what we did tonight.”

The Boilers came out red-hot, scoring the first six points of the game and building a 16-5 first-quarter lead they held onto for the rest of the game.

Swindle said playing with energy from the jump has been a major point of emphasis of late, as has their ability to quickly turn defense to offense, which allowed the Boilers to get off to such a great start in a hostile environment.

“We’ve talked a lot about coming out with energy and playing with joy to start the game, and I think we did that well tonight and for the last five or six games,” Swindle said. “I think that starts with our energy on the bench and from our defense.

“Our transition defense into our offense has been super successful recently and that’s what allowed us to get off to a good start.”

But the Irish began closing the gap by scoring seven out of the last eight points of the first quarter, and after a couple Trinity Davis 3-pointers, pulled to as close as 24-20 in the second quarter.

That’s when the Boilers went to a box-and-one defense, a 2-2 zone that saw an extra defender, primarily Emmerson Longtin, focused on denying Davis the rock. The extra defensive attention on Davis, who finished second in the IHSA Class 4A State 3-point contest as a freshman at Bradley-Bourbonnais last season, held the lethal shooter to just three second-half points as the Boilers got triples of their own on back-to-back possessions from Kate Spittal and Sadie Grabow to go ahead 30-20 and never allow their lead to dwindle to less than five points the rest of the night.

Longtin, who was supported defensively by Skylar Grabow on some of those possessions in the box-and-one, knew she had to echo Swindle’s message of calmness and composure.

“I just knew to stay calm and stay composed,” Longtin said. “I knew if I got tired or something I had Skylar to switch off with me, and she did well, too.

“It’s nice to know I had someone to help me out.”

As the Irish adjusted to the new defensive looks, they were able to put a few spurts together to cut the deficit to as close as six points twice in the fourth quarter and eventually to 56-51 when Leigha Brown’s layup fell with 30 seconds left. But after falling in their early hole, the Irish were never quite able to dig themselves all the way out.

“With us it was all about the little things tonight — we didn’t rebound very well and that’s what wins ballgames, rebounding and defending,” Sanders said. “We did a better job in the second half, but it’s a learning thing and a growing thing...

“They got a lead early and once they got that lead it was hard for us to bounce back,” she added. “We stayed at it and I told them I was proud of that fact.”

Sadie Grabow led the Boilers with 19 points on the evening, the head of a balanced attack offensively that saw Ellie Haggard (15 points) and Longtin (12 points) also score in double-figures in a team performance Swindle felt was indicative of the unselfish attitude in the program.

“I think they trust each other, and they’re friends outside of basketball, which is awesome,” Swindle said. “You can really see the love they have for each other on the court, and the coaches as well.

“We’re a family, and when you’re a family who doesn’t care about who scores or the stats, it comes together nicely for a really good team.”

Longtin and several of her Boiler teammates have taken part in other All-City with matchups, as girls basketball is the only girls sport the two teams haven’t played each other in since COVID-19, in addition to boys basketball and football, the latter of which hasn’t been played in more than 25 years.

But Tuesday’s opportunity was a new one for this group of Boiler basketball players, and it’s one Longtin and her teammates wanted to take advantage of.

“The past couple years we haven’t gotten to play Mac in an All-City [basketball] game, but playing with these girls is a lot of fun,” Longtin said. “We’re all really competitive, so to play with them tonight was really fun and we got a good win.”

The Boilers defeated Kankakee at the Beecher Fall Classic to kick off the season and the Irish and Kays do not play each other this season, giving the Boilers the de facto rights as All-City champions this year.

But no matter who emerges victorious in the All-City meetings, Sanders just knows that helping bring back a true All-City format on a yearly basis is a high priority for the 2015 McNamara graduate and first-year head coach.

“It’s a huge goal, just because you can see the atmosphere — this is what the community wants, and win, lose or draw it’s always great to see the community come together for something special,” Sanders said. “This is one of those things that meant a lot to me when I was a player and I understood that, so now as a coach I’m like, ‘We’ve got to have it.’

“For these girls, it was their first time playing in an All-City game and now they see what it’s like and we want more of it,” she added. “I hope as a community we can do what we’ve got to do to get that going.”


Haggard added 10 rebounds to her 15 points for a double-double. Longtin added six rebounds and Skylar Grabow had five rebounds. Sadie Grabow added nine points.

Caley Strahan led all scorers with 21 points for the Irish, with 16 of them coming in the second half. Davis finished with 14 points, 11 in the first half. Natalie Prairie scored seven points and Leigha Brown had six points.


Both teams return to home action Thursday, with the Boilers hosting Stagg at 7 p.m. and the Irish hosting Wheaton Academy at 7:30 p.m.

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Mason Schweizer
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