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No matter how hard he's tried, Joliet Catholic varsity girls basketball coach Ed Schodrof had never beaten Carmel in his first four-plus seasons at the helm.
That all changed in a major way Monday night, as his Angels stormed away from the host Corsairs en route to a convincing 68-41 East Suburban Catholic Conference road victory that was never in doubt.
"I have a ton of respect for Carmel, that's a great team over there," Schodrof said. "They're the type of club that always makes me nervous. I watched a lot of film on them before tonight to make sure we were completely prepared. There's a reason they were given a No. 2 seed in the (upcoming Class 3A) playoffs."
The Angels (20-4, 6-2 ESCC) raced out to a 12-3 lead during the first three minutes of the game, pulled ahead by 12 at the end of one, and were up by 15 at halftime thanks to some strong shooting and unselfish play.
Joliet Catholic was 5-for-9 from three-point range during the game's first 16 minutes, and during the same span shot 50 percent from the field (17-of-34). A big reason was the hot hand of Angels junior point guard Christina Ekhomu, who had nine points (on 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc), six assists, three rebounds and three steals by intermission.
When she wasn't scoring, Ekhomu's favorite target was junior Jasmine Lumpkin, who notched a game-high 25 points to go along with eight rebounds and four steals. Lumpkin was unstoppable at times when driving to the basket.
"Jasmine had a great game, and we made a lot of shots tonight (26-for-54 from the field overall)," Schodrof said. "Those threes in the first half were big, and when Carmel made a late run, it seemed like everyone in our lineup found ways to respond."
That run came midway through the third quarter, when the Corsairs cut what had been a 17-point Joliet Catholic lead to just seven, at 44-37. But from that point on, the Angels dominated, thanks to a 20-0 run of their own that extended their lead to 27 points late in the game.
Carmel's first point of the fourth quarter came on a free throw by Paige Gauthier with 2:22 left to play, ending a 10-plus minute scoreless spell by the hosts.
The Corsairs (18-8, 3-4) got a team-high 14 points from junior forward Cassidy Kloss, and conceded they were overmatched.
"Their athleticism was pretty overwhelming for us," Carmel coach Kelly Perz said. "I thought we played really hard tonight, but I also thought there were some things we could've done a little better. Joliet Catholic is an extremely skilled team from top-to-bottom."