How tough an assignment did Benet have Thursday night at the Class 4A Romeoville sectional final?
Bolingbrook never considered the traditional cutting down of the nets after winning the sectional plaque.
"We do aim a little bit higher at Bolingbrook High School," said two-time defending champion coach Tony Smith. "We only cut down nets on Saturday nights. Not a Thursday night, not a Monday night but Saturday night, that's when we cut down nets."
The Raiders cut down Benet in the third quarter to advance to Monday's Illinois Wesleyan University supersectional against Edwardsville with a 64-44 triumph.
Benet led twice very early in the game, but Bolingbrook took the lead for good on Allie Hill's 3-pointer to make the score 6-4. Still, Benet stayed close throughout the first half and remained within a possession of tying the game late in the second quarter before Ariel Massengale's basket gave Bolingbrook a 26-21 halftime lead.
"Our goal was to jump on them right from the start, kind of give them a scare, and I think we did that," Benet senior Danielle Canulli said. "I give credit to the entire team, we battled to the end. Nobody ever expected us to go this far, and we believed in ourselves the entire time."
"The first half, a lot of things were there but we were just going a little bit too fast," Smith said. "The second half we played at a pace that we could go and make good decisions. The first half Morgan Tuck didn't touch the ball much. She had two early fouls and we were a little bit out of sync. The second half we came back, played a little bit slower but still fast enough that we were in a rhythm."
The third quarter was all Bolingbrook (25-2). Massengale scored 5 points in the first 30 seconds to give the Raiders their first double-digit lead. Canulli scored for Benet, but the Raiders weren't done. A Morgan Tuck free throw bumped the Bolingbrook advantage to 38-23 with just 2:15 expired in the third period.
"We usually have one bad quarter, and I wish we could take it back," Canulli said. "The first two minutes of the second half are the most important, and they just took control of that."
Benet never got closer than 12 points the rest of the game.
"Give credit to our kids," Benet coach Peter Paul said. "They did an exceptional job. Outside of in all honesty the first two minutes, minute and a half of the first quarter, which we'd like to take back, I thought we battled as hard as we possibly could. We stopped them from getting easy baskets. Unfortunately we had that little lapse and they took advantage of it."
Tennessee-bound point guard Ariel Massengale led all scorers with 22 points for Bolingbrook.
"That's the Ariel that we are accustomed to," Smith said. "The last two playoff games she wasn't quite that kid, but we had a talk and she came out and responded."
Bolingbrook 6-foot-2 junior Morgan Tuck finished with 15 points after scoring just 1 in the first half. Senior Taylor Tuck and junior Cabriana Capers had 8 apiece, and former Waubonsie Valley player Keiera Ray, a junior, scored 6 points.
"I told Tony, I said he's got an all-star team," Paul said. "It's not just a high school team, it's an all-star team. I think we battled as hard as we possibly could."
"We don't take anybody for granted there," Smith added. "We don't go say we're Bolingbrook and we're just going to come in here and win. We know better than that. Peter Paul is a great guy, a great coach and they have a great team there."
Sophomore Christen Prasse came off the bench to lead Benet with 14 points. Canulli added 11 and junior Nicole Valentine 9.
"We've got six seniors on this team, and all year long, I'll say it again, I've been involved in coaching many, many years," Paul said, "in all honesty this team was special. It's a special group, and I think along the way we beat everyone we were supposed to. We ended up 24-7. All seven we lost to were top-12-ranked teams or higher, and along the way we had some upsets."