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Bloom can be forgiven for starting slowly Monday after two tough games in St. Louis over the weekend and the long bus ride home late Sunday night.
But once the Blazing Trojans got their feet under them, it was just a matter of time before they put away Providence at the McDonald’s Shootout at Willowbrook.
Bria Gaines had 24 points and 14 rebounds and Katherine Strong added 16 points and 10 rebounds as Bloom overcame an early 15-6 deficit to defeat the Celtics 58-40.
“We just came off two very tough games in St. Louis against Incarnate Word and St. Joseph’s Academy,” Bloom coach Ron Newquist said. “Both are nationally ranked. We got our butts handed to us. But we did that for a reason.
“It was going to be tough coming here emotionally and being ready to play,” he added. “Getting them up was not easy, and it showed in the first half. We were just not prepared to play defense. The big difference in the second half was matching their shooters and not giving them second chances.”
Strong gave Bloom (16-6) the lead for good at 35-33 with a little jumper from the left baseline at the 3:26 mark of the third quarter. The Blazing Trojans extended the lead to 42-33 on a rebound basket by Baines.
Providence’s Alex Shermulis bagged her second buzzer-beating three-pointer of the game to get the Celtics to within 42-36 after 24 minutes, but Bloom countered with a 10-0 run to open the fourth quarter.
“We were tired mentally and physically because of the ride home last night and coming back from those two losses,” said Gaines, a Western Kentucky recruit. “But we picked it up in the end. Defense and rebounding were the difference. As long as we box out and play defense, we can pretty much own the boards.”
Shermulis, who is headed to Ferris State (Mich.) in the fall, led Providence (9-12) with 18 points, including a three-pointer with three seconds left in the first half that gave the Celtics a 23-22 lead.
Alyssa Jurges added 11 points.
“We needed more energy in the fourth quarter,” Shermulis said. “They got all the boards with their big post (Gaines). We had to box her out. We did pretty well in the first half. But they kept giving it to Bria and we didn’t answer. That’s how they got all those points back.”