ELMHURST, Ill. -- Senior guard Ricquia Jones knew Proviso East couldn’t afford to play another half like its first one on Tuesday.
The Pirates had been outmatched against Fenwick throughout the opening half of the York Sectional semifinal. Proviso East had turned the ball over seven times and scored just five points in the first quarter. Its points total grew to 15 at halftime, but Jones understood that still wasn’t going to cut it.
If Proviso East was going to win its first-ever sectional game, something had to change; someone had to emerge. Jones chose herself.
“I’m a captain,” Jones said. “I’m a leader. I felt as a leader I needed to pick it up and motivate my team, don’t let them get down on each other and keep everybody’s head up.”
Jones delivered. Sparked by her enthusiasm on both ends of the court, the No. 9 Pirates rallied from a double-digit deficit in the second half to shock No. 11 Fenwick 56-54 and advance to Thursday’s sectional championship game.
When the final buzzer sounded, Jones and her teammates raced to each other near their bench, hugged, jumped around and shouted in celebration.
“I’d rather be winning this game than be a millionaire,” Jones said. “I just want to win.”
After playing passive ball in the opening two quarters, Proviso East (29-2) was the aggressor from the moment the third quarter began. On the opening play of the second half, Pirates junior guard Stacy Welch caught the ball, drove hard down the baseline and scored on a layup.
From there, Proviso East never took its foot off the gas pedal. The Pirates scored the quarter’s first 10 points, which included two 3-pointers by Jones, and cut Fenwick’s lead to 26-25. They would go on to score 18 points in the third quarter.
Fenwick (26-5) was able to absorb Proviso East’s initial run and fought back to take a 38-33 lead at the end of the third quarter, but the Friars weren’t so fortunate the second time around. Proviso East kicked off the final quarter on a 9-2 run and took a 42-40 advantage. It was the Pirates’ first lead since being up 2-0.
The Friars tied the game at 42-42 at 3:42, and Proviso East pushed forward one final time to clinch its victory. The Pirates scored 10 consecutive points and held Fenwick to two points over the game’s final three minutes.
Jones’ second-half performance included 10 points, two assists, three steals and whole lot of leadership.
“Ricquia Jones was the difference in this game,” Proviso East coach Ezra PridGeon said. “She turned the tables around for us. She stepped up as a senior. She knew she only had one shot. If she doesn’t take advantage of having a good game tonight, we wouldn’t be standing here talking.”
Proviso East senior Ivory Crawford, an Illinois recruit, scored 13 of her 14 points in the second half. Senior forward Jasmine Jones also contributed 19 points and 14 rebounds.
Meredith Boardman (nine points, eight rebounds, five blocks) and Sarah Williams (14 points) led Fenwick.