ELGIN — Facing their biggest challenge of the season, Elgin Public-Pope John held off a late rally to defeat O’Neill 47 to 45.
The two-point victory kept the Wolfpack’s record unblemished at 8-0, but it didn’t come easy for Coach Randy Eisenhauer and the team.
The Wolfpack used the three-point shot to gain control early in the game. Kasi Stoltz hit two and Michelle Bauer added one to help the team take an early five-point lead.
Then, with 3:22 to go before halftime, EPPJ put together a seven to zero run to close out the half. Jessica Heithoff hit a trey to start the run, then Bauer, on back-to-back plays, drove the baseline for layups to make the score 25 to 17 at halftime.
Up by eight points to start the second half, the Wolfpack saw their lead slowly slip away. O’Neill’s Kelsey Appleby had four points early in the quarter and then the Eagles got points from Emily Haxton and Alex Hedlund to cut the lead to 32 to 27 with 1:06 left in the quarter.
O’Neill cut the lead down to three points several times, the last with 1:37 left in the game.
EPPJ closed out the victory with Stoltz tossing in five points in the final 90 seconds of the game.
Down 45 to 37 with 31 seconds left, O’Neill nearly found a way to steal victory. Kelsey Mundhenke hit a two-pointer with 22 seconds left to cut the lead to six points with 22 seconds left. Then, a free throw by Rachel Price followed by a trey from Appleby with 10 seconds left and EPPJ’s lead was down to 45 to 43.
Forced to foul, O’Neill put Jenna Beckman on the line and the senior delivered two clutch free throws with four seconds left to boost the lead to 47 to 43. Then, as time expired, O’Neill scored a two-pointer to make the final score 47 to 45. Stoltz led EPPJ with 25 points, Bauer had 11.