Andy Nussbaum was proud of how his girls competed Monday against stacked odds, but not surprised.
Naperville Central had no intention to just be a footnote for Bolingbrook's seemingly inevitable return to Redbird Arena.
"We didn't come down here to scare them," said the Redhawks coach. "We came here to beat them."
Naperville Central trailed by 16 midway through the fourth quarter, before succumbing 67-43 to the two-time defending state champion Raiders at the Class 4A Romeoville sectional semifinal.
That score doesn't sound like much, until you consider this:
Bolingbrook (24-2) hasn't lost to an Illinois team since the 2008 state championship game, a streak of 60 games. The Raiders average margin of victory during the regular season was 41 points. A 16-point win over Montini was Bolingbrook's closest game against an Illinois opponent this year.
Nussbaum, denied in his first crack at career win No. 500, personally watched Bolingbrook beat a good Homewood-Flossmoor team by 50.
"This is the third time I've seen them," Nussbaum said, "and we did the best of the three opponents. We competed all the way to the end. You're going to have to play awfully well to beat them. I personally think this is their best team yet."
An Emma Donahue basket, two Donahue free throws and a Jamie Cuny basket assisted by Victoria Trowbridge had the Redhawks (24-9) within 19-14 midway through the second quarter.
From there, Morgan Tuck scored three straight baskets for Bolingbrook, igniting a 19-5 run to end the half up 38-19.
The Connecticut-bound Tuck was dominant in the paint with 30 points and 10 rebounds.
"Morgan was Morgan today, and that was pretty good," Bolingbrook coach Anthony Smith said. "She definitely dominated inside. That's what our team needed."
Nussbaum called Bolingbrook maybe the most physically strong team in the state. Monday's game was a little extra chippy at times.
A Redhawks player elbowed a Bolingbrook girl during one dead ball, but no official spotted it. On a few occasions later, Naperville Central players were thrown down during scrums for loose balls.
"They play physical," Redhawks senior Emma Ondik said of Bolingbrook, "and I don't think our team lets people push us around. I was proud of our girls. We pushed back."
"I think maybe the girls got a little bit too out of control with the physical play," Smith said, "but it was nice to see them touch back."
An Ondik basket midway through the final quarter drew Naperville Central within 56-40, but it never got closer.
Allie Hill scored 14 points off the bench for Bolingbrook, 11 in the first half with four key 3-pointers. Ariel Massengale added 10 points.
Ondik, who scored her 1,500th career point Friday, scored 16 in her final game. Donahue added 13 points and 10 rebounds for Naperville Central, which had gone 14-1 over its last 15 games before Monday.
"We had a great finish," Ondik said. "If you would have told me we'd go 14-2 after the first half of the season, I would have been really happy. We came a long way."