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ROCKFORD -- Huntley followed a familiar script in winning the Class 4A Rockford East girls basketball sectional championship Thursday night.
The Red Raiders opened up a first-half lead, then fought off a determined second-half run to come away with the victory.
Thursday night it was Streamwood, whittling a 10-point deficit down to 2 twice in the fourth quarter. But the Sabres could never get over the hump and Huntley held on for a 45-41 victory.
The sectional title is the first in program history and the Raiders' 25 wins ties a school record. Huntley (25-6) will face Wheaton Warrenville South in the Dundee-Crown supersectional on Monday. WWS (29-3), beat Wheaton North 53-45 Thursday to win the Bartlett sectional, the Tigers' first sectional title since 1997. Monday's winner will advance to the Class 4A Final Four at Redbird Arena in Normal next weekend to play either Rolling Meadows or Evanston in the state semifinals.
Junior Sam Andrews scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, and senior Haley Ream had 14 points and 10 boards to lead the Red Raiders Thursday Freshman Ali Andrews chipped in 8 points and Bethany Zornow led a strong defensive effort.
For the second straight game, Huntley led 17-11 at halftime. The Raiders stretched the lead to 10 points before the Sabres (22-9), who were in a sectional final for the first time since 1988, started to chip away. Senior Jessica Cerda turned a breakaway layup into an old-fashioned 3-point play to make it 28-26 early in the fourth quarter. But the Red Raiders maintained their poise down the stretch.
"We didn't want to get down on ourselves," said Ream. "Usually after runs you get down on yourself and our main goal was to slow down our offense and take care of the ball. We knew we had the lead, we just needed to calm down and not freak out about anything."
"That last three minutes, I thought we did a great job of passing and catching the basketball, of being patient, showing resiliency and not getting flustered with double-teams that were coming at us," said Huntley coach Steve Raethz. "We were able to run some clock, and knock down some foul shots."
After making just 3 of 9 free throws through the first 24 minutes, Huntley made 5 of 7 from the line in the fourth quarter.
Cerda almost single-handedly kept the Sabres in the game late, hitting a couple of shots from the parking lot on the way to a game-high 20 points. Her deep 3-pointer made it 40-35 with 2:50 left. After Sam Andrews made a pair of free throws, Cerda buried another shot from the hinterlands. The Andrews sisters combined for 3 free throws to keep the Raiders comfortably in front before Cerda hit yet another bomb to account for the final margin.
"I thought Haley Ream played an outstanding game for us on both ends of the floor," Raethz said. "She did so many positive things for us. She really stepped up as a senior and led us tonight."
Streamwood made just 1 of 2 free throws for the game.
"We just couldn't get to the free-throw line," said Streamwood coach George Rosner. "I can't work officials any harder, I can't do any more to get my girls to get some free throws. Maybe it was us. Maybe we just didn't get to the basket hard enough."
Hannah McGlone added 8 points and 7 rebounds for Streamwood, while Deja Moore scored 6 points.