All season long, the Glenbard South girls basketball team has refused to lose. That type of attitude and steadfast focus sure comes in handy in games, especially in the postseason.
Trailing by a large deficit at the end of the first quarter to Nazareth in Tuesday's Class 3A Nazareth sectional semifinal didn't rattle the Raiders, who went out and dominated the host Roadrunners the rest of the way for a 44-35 victory in LaGrange Park.
The win sets up a showdown against No. 1 seed Montini in the sectional final on Thursday night.
"They are a never-give-up group until the buzzer," said Glenbard South coach Julie Fonda. "Down 18-3 (after eight minutes of play), you can't give up."
The all-out effort by numerous Raiders players shows the kind of team they are. In one play late in the fourth quarter, guard Stefi Bazigos sailed out of bounds to save a loose ball and Glenbard South later scored.
Guard Ivana Markovic and forward Tomei Ball also seemed to spend as much time on the floor diving for loose balls as they did standing upright. Ball, a junior captain who Fonda calls "her rock on the floor," also strung together quite an impressive offensive outburst at an opportune time for the Raiders (22-7).
Late in the second quarter, Ball reeled off 7 straight points, including a 3-pointer, to cap a 12-0 run to lift Glenbard South back into the game.
"She was able to execute and come through with some really key baskets," Fonda said. "Those mid-range jumpers are what she wants. She puts a lot of effort into making that shot her best shot. The ball fell in her hands in the right spot."
"The intensity was high," Ball said. "The bench was really supporting us. I just had some open shots so we just finished like we should."
Senior forward Hannah Taylor came off the bench to lead the Raiders with 10 points. Ball and Bazigos chipped in 9 points apiece.
Defensively, the Raiders were impressive and held Nazareth (18-14) to 17 combined points in the second, third and fourth quarters. The Roadrunners did not make a field goal in the second half.
One reason was 6-foot-2 Glenbard South center Sydney Bauman, who caused the Roadrunner shooters to adjust their shots around the hoop. She had 2 big blocks late in the fourth quarter. Bauman also scored on a couple of give and go's late in the third quarter to give the Raiders a lead they would never lose.
"We let (No.) 32 (Ball) go on a run and then we couldn't find the basket, not for a lack of trying," said Nazareth coach Kim Connell. "I was worried about sustaining that level of intensity first quarter. That is the first time we have done that all season. I was hoping that we could. Glenbard South is too good of a team to let that happen to them."
The Roadrunners were led by a game-high 13 points by Katelyn Cahill.
In Tuesday's first semifinal freshman Lea Kerstein hit six 3-pointers and scored 22 points, and Montini (32-1) rolled past Westinghouse 67-42 despite missing leading scorer Kateri Stone (ankle sprain).
Sara Ross added 11 points and 8 rebounds, Malayna Johnson 8 points and 8 boards and Kelly Karlis 6 points, 7 rebounds and 7 blocks for Montini, which led 41-20 at half and by as many as 30 in the fourth quarter.