Rolling Meadows faced one of the toughest defenses its has seen this season Friday night at Elk Grove.
Turns out the Mustangs can play some pretty good 'D' themselves.
In what Meadows guard Sami Kay called "probably the most physical game we've played all year," one that saw three Grenadiers foul out, the Mustangs held off a frenetic second-half rally by the home team to score a 60-51 Mid-Suburban East win.
Rolling Meadows (22-1, 8-0) clinched a second straight appearance in the appearance in the Mid-Suburban League title game and owns a 2-game lead in the East over Elk Grove (15-9, 6-2) with two to play.
The Meadows victory overshadowed a tremendous effort from Elk Grove senior Diamond Boyd, who scored 25 points and almost led the Grens all the way back from a 22-point deficit.
"I don't think even Diamond realizes what she can do on the court," said Elk Grove coach Kathie Swanson. "When she comes out with the mentality that she did tonight she can be a handful to any team."
It was the Mustangs who came out with the right mindset early, setting the tone by holding Elk Grove to 13 first-half points en route to a 16-point halftime lead.
"We score a lot of points," said Kay, "but I think we're underestimated on defense."
"Defense is a big part of our game," added teammate Allie Kemph. "Coach (Ryan Kirkorsky) always tells us that he doesn't care if we mess up on offense as long as we play hard on 'D'."
Meadows opened up a 43-21 lead midway through the 3rd quarter after a 3-point play by Alexis Glasgow (team-high 19 points), but an almost unstoppable Boyd quickly poured in 8 consecutive points to close the gap.
"Diamond played great," said Kemph. "There was lot of emotion on the court tonight. You could tell how badly each team wanted to win."
Led by intense full-court pressure , Elk Grove cut the deficit to 7 in the fourth quarter and looked to get even closer when it appeared the Grens had a steal and breakaway. But a foul was called to send Meadows to the foul line.
And the free throw line was where the Mustangs were able to close the game out. Meadows had only 1 field goal in the final eight minutes but was 13-of-17 from the line in the fourth quarter.
Jenny Vliet finished with 13 points for Meadows and Jackie Kemph added 11, while Boyd corralled 8 rebounds for the Grens to go along with her game-high points total in a great all-around performance.
"We were right there," said Boyd. "We had the intensity that we needed for about 2½ quarters tonight, and if we would have showed that same intensity for all four quarters, it would have been a win for us."
"It was a tough loss and we're all upset about it, but we can't dwell on it -- we've got to come out and play a game tomorrow (against Zion-Benton) and try to get a win. Rolling Meadows is a great team -- they're ranked third in state, and we're not ranked at all -- so to lose by only 9, I guess you'd call that a 'good loss'."
Senior Kelly Naughton scored 10 points (including two 3-pointers) for the Grens while junior Melissa Solorio added 8.
"I feel that we've got the ability to play with, and defeat, any team we play," said Swanson. "We've just got to put together a complete effort for four quarters."