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Kaneland's frenetic fourth quarter comeback attempt contained everything imaginable — except for the fantastic finish.
The Lady Knights whittled Plano's seemingly insurmountable 15-point lead down to a single point and had possession with 17 seconds left in Wednesday's Class 3A Burlington Central regional semifinal.
After Plano's 6-foot-4 center Clarissa Martinez blocked Emma Bradford's potential game-winning shot out of bounds with 1.5 seconds left, Kaneland drew up one final play
Allyson O'Herron got a clean look at a 3-pointer from the bow, but it came off the front of the rim and No. 2 seed Plano held on for a dramatic 52-51 victory.
The Reapers (22-6) advanced to face No. 1 seed Burlington Central (24-4) in Friday's regional championship while No. 3 seed Kaneland attempted to find solace in a moral victory.
"Once it started rolling, we got in such a great rhythm and it made us all want to work even harder," said senior Ashley Prost, who carried the Knights with an impressive 22-point performance.
"We're a pretty scrappy team and we try and we hustle as much as we possibly can and that really showed."
"It's tough to fight back and fall short like that, but what a great effort from our kids and it shows their character," said Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe.
"Kaneland ratcheted up the pressure in the fourth quarter and we got caught a little bit," said Plano coach Mario Serra. "Credit to Kaneland, all their kids hit big shots at the end, outside of the last one, and she's the best 3-point shooter I saw all year."
Plano stunned Kaneland (16-11) early on with a barrage of 3-pointers of its own against a zone designed to contain Martinez.
The Reapers drained 5-of-7 trifectas in the first quarter, including three off the bench from Albana Hoti.
They finished the quarter on a 13-0 run and scored the first four points of the second quarter for their largest lead of the game at 26-6.
"When they came out in a zone and sagged on Martinez, all the kids on the floor were told, 'if you're open, shoot the ball from three,'" Serra said.
Kaneland struggled offensively in the opening half as Martinez controlled play in the paint and collected 5 of her 8 blocks.
Prost tallied all five of the Knights' first half field goals to keep them somewhat within striking distance at 30-14.
"(Martinez) changes a lot of shots and she did that early on, but later we were a little more composed taking it to the rim," Colombe said.
With Martinez on the bench with three fouls to open the fourth, Kaneland forced three consecutive turnovers and ripped off 8 unanswered points to cut the lead to 42-35.
Brooke Harner came up with a steal and hoop, followed by consecutive baskets from Sarah Grams and a baseline jumper from Prost.
Plano briefly stemmed the tide with a basket and free throw, but O'Herron sandwiched a 3-pointer between a pair of Prost jumpers to bring Kaneland within 45-42 with 3:51 left.
Caroline Heimerdinger contributed a clutch 3-pointer and strong driving layup and Prost scored inside to close the gap to 50-49.
Temirra Ellis dropped in a pair of clutch free throws for Plano before Prost's driving layup accounted for the game's final points with 35 seconds left.
Heimerdinger finished with 8 points for Kaneland while Bradford had 7. Hoti scored a team-high 12 points for Plano with Martinez and Zhate Jackson adding 11 points each.