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Setting the standard: Sandburg seniors show underclassmen how it’s done

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By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

Erin O’Connor has a nose for the ball.

The determination of O’Connor was demonstrated on one play midway through the second quarter in Sandburg’s 46-45 win over Lockport on Jan. 27.

The Eagles had just missed a shot and the ball looked to be going out of bounds. But O’Connor, a 5-foot-8 guard and team co-captain, went flying out of bounds on the baseline and tipped the ball back in play to senior teammate Josie Canellis.

The hustle rebound, one of the team-leading five in the game for O’Connor, didn’t result in any points, but did epitomize her grit and will to win.

“In some aspects, I feel like a dog,” O’Connor said of the play. “I see the ball and I go to it.”

That shows in her stats over the past four years. With three games left in the regular season, she has in three-plus seasons compiled 661 points, 522 rebounds and 352 assists. On Jan. 18, she set the Eagles’ all-time steals record with her 303rd in a 68-31 victory over SouthWest Suburban Conference foe Andrew.

The old record of 302 steals was held by Erika Nelson, who played for Sandburg from 1999-2003.

Following the Lockport game, O’Connor had 318 career steals, including 110 this season.

“She’s our catalyst, she’s our engine,” Sandburg coach Nick Fotopoulos said of O’Connor. “She makes us go and she’s a great kid, too.”

To what does O’Connor attribute her ability to steal the ball?

“Honestly, in my first three years I was more of a defensive player,” she said. “I knew that contributing steals could help the team. Before this season my dad asked me to make a goal, and I wanted to break the all-time steals record.”

Against Andrew, Charlotte Trunk, a senior guard-forward, scored her 1,000th career point on her first basket of the game. Neither she nor O’Connor knew they had reached their milestones until afterward. They were both honored before a 62-49 loss to Bolingbrook on Jan. 20.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Trunk said of reaching 1,000 points. “Coach Foto messaged me the next day and told me that I’d reached it. I was surprised.”

Through the Lockport game, Tunk had in her high school career amassed 1,060 points, 432 rebounds and 145 steals.

And the honors kept on coming as O’Connor, Trunk and the rest of Sandburg’s seniors were recognized Jan. 25 on Senior Night home game against Lincoln-Way East (14-10, 3-3). Unfortunately, that was a 56-54 loss to Lincoln-Way East. The Eagles missed as a last-second 3-point attempt that would have won the game had it gone in.

Still, it was a nice night seniors O’Connor, Trunk, Danielle Antoine, Lauren Coghlan, Maddie Coghlan, Payton Prodohel and Sydney Vrdolyak.

Two days later, the Eagles (18-8, 2-4 entering this week) led nearly the whole game and forced 19 turnovers in the SWSC Blue win over Lockport.

Antoine led the way with 14 points and Trunk added 13 points. Sandburg needed every one of them as the Porters (14-12, 0-5) tried to rally from a 46-39 deficit with 3:11 to play.

Fittingly it was an assist from O’Connor to Trunk for a layup to open the third quarter and start a 7-0 run that gave the Eagles the lead for good.

“It helps that we’ve been playing together since fourth grade,” Trunk said of her partnership with O’Connor. “We work really well together. On a lot of Erin’s steals, she gets me good assists and I get my points off of that. It just shows we contribute together in our own ways.”

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