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Fenton tops Westmont in 4th quarter.

Byline: Andy Martinez Daily Herald Correspondent

Looking across at the Westmont girls basketball teams bench, Fentons Ashley Liras confidence grew ever so slightly.

Seeing only two players on the bench Westmont has been battling injuries and illness with low numbers this season and Fentons style it played 17 players and rotated lineups every minute or two Lira and Fenton felt they would eventually break down Westmont.

What happened throughout the game, though, shocked Lira.

"They didnt wear down," Lira said. "As much as I thought they would, they kept up with us."

Eventually, though, the Bisons shots started falling and they made a fourth-quarter rally to claim a 77-73 nonconference win.

"I told them at halftime and I told them in the fourth quarter, this is when youre becoming a team now," Fenton coach Dave Mello said. "We had to overcome a lot for these kids. Its winning time in the fourth quarter, and these kids are ready to win."

Westmonts resiliency gave Fenton (4-7) fits all night. In the first half the Sentinels (2-10) hung with the Bisons rotation system and went into the half trailing just 40-38.

"We didnt worry about their rotating because we dont play man-to-man," Westmont coach Rich Panitch said. "When were not playing man-to-man, its easy to stay in our zone and they can rotate and it doesnt affect us."

Westmonts offense really clicked in the third quarter. The Sentinels scored the first 4 points of the second half to take the lead. Freshman Megan Thompson split a pair of free throws that capped a 7-2 run to end the third quarter and gave Westmont its largest lead, 63-56. Senior Sydney Pardy had 15 of her game-high 35 points in the third.

"Frankly, we played it by ear as the game went on," Panitch said. "We realized that we were faster than them, so we could attack the basket quickly."

But Lira and Fenton didnt waver.

"Honestly, I wasnt nervous at all," Lira said. "I knew my team had it in them."

Fenton just stuck to its game plan and chipped away at the deficit.

"Just keep pushing the ball," Fenton senior Amari Benbow, who finished with a team-high 21 points, said. "Not get nervous if were down, because were eventually going to make a shot."

Fenton kept up its confidence, while Westmont kept up its energy. Westmonts Aleksa Sekularac hit a jumper with 2 minutes, 11 seconds to play that gave the Sentinels a 71-68 lead. Sekularac finished with 19 points.

"We underestimated them and they kept up with our pace," Benbow said.

The Bison took the ball quickly downcourt, and Ashley Milano hit a 3-pointer that tied the game.

Two possessions later, Benbow forced a turnover on a Westmont defensive rebound, dribbled twice and hit a layup to give Fenton the lead for good.

After that it became a free-throw game, with Benbow making three trips to the free-throw line.

"I believed during all those free throws Amari did," Lira said. "I believed in her."

And Fenton pulled out the win.

"It took us a little to click because our shots werent falling," Lira said. "That all came in the end and the score says it all. We succeeded."

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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Martinez, By Andy
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Dec 19, 2017
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