When Naperville Central's Jamie Cuny nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Redhawks an 11-point lead that capped a 17-5 quarter, it only seemed inevitable that the Redhawks were about to capture their first Dundee-Crown Charger Classic girls basketball championship since they won back-to-back titles with Candace Parker in 2002-03.
If anything, the Maine South looked dead in the water after it shot with a lid on its basket, going 2 for 11 in the third quarter with its first points in the second half coming with 1:40 remaining on a basket by Regan Carmichael.
However, the lid made its way over to Naperville Central's end and when Maine South threw in a trap as well midway through the fourth, all bets were off as the Hawks used a 15-4 fourth quarter to force overtime. In the extra session, Carmichael continued her onslaught, scoring 15 of her career-high 27 points bridging the fourth and overtime to seal a 54-43 comeback win to as the Hawks claimed the D-C championship in their first appearance in the tourney Saturday night in Carpentersville.
Central coach Andy Nussbaum was very much mesmerized by what had happened in the game's final 8 minutes.
"It was 36-25 ... and I thought we had the game won," Nussbaum said. "But we did say with 4 minutes to go there was a long way to go and we didn't handle the press well and we let them convert.
"Game like this, 40 to 40 at the end of regulation, you could point to 6,000 things we could have done."
Maine South (16-2) led by 1 at half but Cuny came out on fire, scoring 9 of her 13 points in the third on 3 3-pointers giving the Redhawks (14-2) that 11-point edge.
But after Jacqui Grant's (14 points, 12 rebounds) hook went down with 3:56 in the fourth, cutting the lead to 7, the Hawks went to a full-court trap and forced 2 key steals which keyed an 11-2 run midway through the fourth where Naperville hit just 2 of 10 from the field and committed 4 turnovers.
Baskets by Carmichael and a jumper by Grant from 16-feet out behind the free throw line tied the game at 40 with 40 seconds to go, after Central missed the front end of a 1-and-1 20 seconds prior. Naperville called timeout with 22.9 remaining and ran the clock down for the final shot, but Shannon Ryan's attempt to win the game clanked out.
"We didn't handle the press well, we took questionable shots, we missed free throws, then after that was all said and done, had a ball go in an out with 3 seconds to go," Nussbaum said. "But those last four minutes of regulation are very disappointing and we had the game in our hands and didn't close."
Overtime was an extension of the fourth quarter for Maine South, which climbed out to a 48-41 advantage with Carmichael sinking 4 free throws and a bucket early on. The Redhawks were 1 of 5 in the extra session and managed 3 points. They shot 19 for 51 overall and were outscored 25-5 in the game's last 8 minutes.
"It shows the character of our team," Carmichael said. "We were down by as many as 11 and we never quit."
Ryan scored in double figures with 11, as well as Victoria Trowbridge, who hauled in 8 rebounds. for the Redhawks.