Masquerade party brings in new season

Forward Stephanie Chellen takes a shot during the Orange and Blue Scrimmage on Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall. Tessa Pelias

Forward Stephanie Chellen takes a shot during the Orange and Blue Scrimmage on Sunday afternoon at Assembly Hall. Tessa Pelias

By Derek Barichello

On Sunday, the Illini women’s basketball team held its annual Orange and Blue Scrimmage with a twist. The team hosted the event as a Halloween Masquerade party.

The team was able to get work done and have some fun at the same time.

The Illini dropped the scrimmage 74-71, which was played against the all-male women’s scout team.

“It was a good chance for everyone to get out and play,” said head coach Theresa Grentz.

After a 38-38 first half, the Illini opened the second half with a 15-3 run, but watched it slip away as the men put together a 15-0 run of their own to take a 56-53 lead.

Ten lead changes and seven ties followed, as both teams battled back and forth.

Down 74-71 with less than a minute to go, the Illini had two shots from three-point range to tie, but neither fell and the scout team took the win.

Senior guard Maggie Acuna said it was a good test early in the season.

“Everyone got a chance to play in the game,” Acuna said. “It was a tough game, we got a chance right away to test ourselves against adversity and see how we would react.”

Junior forward Audrey Tabon emerged as the star of the game. She tallied 12 points, six rebounds and three steals.

Senior guard Janelle Hughes added 11 points in the effort. Acuna also provided a spark with seven points, three assists and five rebounds.

Freshman guard Lori Bjork led all underclassmen in scoring with nine points and freshman forward Lacey Simpson notched seven points, four rebounds and four steals.

Since it was the first time in a competitive setting at Assembly Hall for the team, combined with the number of underclassmen, there was some rust in the offense, which Acuna said is a matter of playing together more.

“We need to get to know each other a lot better,” Acuna said.

Grentz said the women’s team scrimmages with the scout team in the Orange and Blue game to simulate some of the tough competition the team will go against in the Big Ten.

“It helps,” Grentz said. “There are some strong players on our scout team.”

Grentz said the idea to hold the masquerade party was her idea. She said it is a tradition of hers to have her players dress up for Halloween. She said it creates a fun atmosphere.

“This has been something in the making for years and years,” Grentz said. “I’ve always had players dress up around Halloween in practice.”

After the game, the team came out dressed in costumes and signed autographs for fans.

“It was a lot of fun,” Acuna said. “It’s great to meet members of the community and meet the people that come out to our games. And for them it’s good to get to know us.”

Players’ costumes ranged from Austin Powers to Zorro. Acuna, along with Hughes, dressed as a pair of dice.

“We thought we would do something together,” Acuna said. “It was cheap, easy and fun.”

Illinois returns to action Nov. 7 when they return to the Assembly Hall for an exhibition against the Ohio Girl’s Basketball Report All-Stars at 7 p.m. The OGBR All-Stars are made up of former college players.