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NORMAL — Rolling Meadows did exactly what it wanted to, and exactly what Huntley knew it couldn't afford to let the Mustangs do.
The Mustangs scored 14 fastbreak points and their aggressive quickness helped create 22 Huntley turnovers Friday night, helping Meadows come away with a 61-44 win over the Red Raiders in the Class 4A girls basketball state semifinals at Redbird Arena.
"It's an incredible feeling," said first-year Mustangs coach Ryan Kirkorsky. "I've said all along these things are happening so fast, you don't have time to take it all in."
Rolling Meadows (30-3) will play Marian Catholic (32-1) for the state championship at 8:15 p.m. Saturday. Marian routed defending state champion Whitney Young 63-39 in Friday's late semifinal.
Rolling Meadows will be vying for the program's first state title and the school's first IHSA state championship in any sport — and third ever — since winning state titles in girls archery, a sport no longer offered by IHSA schools, in 1977 and 1980.
Huntley (26-7) will face Whitney Young and its coach, former Larkin standout Corry Carter Irvin, for third place at 6:30 p.m. The Red Raiders will bring home the program's first state trophy in basketball, boys or girls, regardless of the outcome.
Junior Jenny Vliet led the Mustangs with 18 points and 9 rebounds while classmates Alexis Glasgow and Jackie Kemph, both all-staters, added 16 and 12 points respectively.
"It's crazy," said Vliet of playing for a state title. "We've been thinking and dreaming about it since we were kids. Me, Jackie and Alexis have been playing together since second grade and to be able to come this far together is just an amazing feeling."
The Mustangs used a 28-13 second half advantage to salt away a win that hung in the balance at halftime. After spotting Huntley (26-7) a 9-4 lead early, the Mustangs came back with a 12-0 run to end the first quarter ahead 16-9. They never trailed again.
"The kids didn't panic getting behind," Kirkorsky said. "We've been in that situation a couple times and they did a nice job of not panicking."
The second quarter turned into a track meet, something Huntley didn't want, but surprisingly the Red Raiders won the battle before losing the war. Even with senior Haley Ream on the bench in foul trouble and 6-foot-2 freshman Ali Andrews in and out of the game for the same reason, Huntley outscored Meadows 22-17 in the period as juniors Bethany Zornow and Sam Andrews combined for 15 points, including three 3-pointers, to make it a 33-31 Meadows lead at halftime.
But after Ali Andrews scored 54 seconds into the third quarter to tie the game, the rest of the night belonged to the Mustangs. Vliet scored with 6:02 left in the third to give Meadows the lead for good, then Kemph scored 6 straight points to give the Mustangs a 41-33 lead.
Huntley did close out the third quarter on a 5-2 spurt that included a 3-pointer from Ali Andrews but Meadows turned up the defensive pressure and got three straight turnovers, resulting in baskets from senior Morgan Keller, junior Allie Kemph and Glasgow to take a 49-38 lead with 5:15 left in the game. Huntley never got closer.
"Their posts (the Andrews sisters) are obviously their focal point but they came out and had some other kids hit some shots so we had to adjust," said Kirkorsky. "We did some things tonight defensively we don't normally do because we had a sense they wanted to slow the game down. During this stretch in the postseason it's been our defense and our defensive rebounding that's made the difference."
Jackie Kemph had 5 steals that contributed to her 6 assists, and she directed an offense that only turned the ball over 10 times.
"I try to be aggressive on defense and my teammates got some steals that led to layups," she said.
"I've never guarded a player as quick as she is," said Ream of Jackie Kemph.
"I think we definitely picked it up on defense," said Vliet. "For me, my defense fuels my offense. Picking up the defense and creating some offensive boards helped my offense."
The Mustangs were 22 of 53 shooting and outrebounded Huntley 30-27. Keller, who had 7 points, added 6 boards, 4 offensive. Meadows scored 20 points off Red Raider turnovers and 28 points in the paint, many of them transition layups.
"Congratulations to Rolling Meadows," said classy Huntley coach Steve Raethz. "They're such a tough team and so difficult to defend. Jackie Kemph had an outstanding game for them. She really makes them go and she made some nice plays. We weren't able to stop their runs. Give our kids credit because we were able to weather the storm in the first half but we had some foul trouble in both halves and they made decisive runs in both halves. We just kind of ran out of gas in the second half but our kids battled like they've battled all season.
"We got into a running game with them and you can't get into a running game with Rolling Meadows. It just snowballed on us. There were stretches where we got into a running game with them and turned it over. Some of that was their pressure and some of it was our fault."
Ali Andrews led the Red Raiders with 14 points and Sam Andrews had 13. They combined for 13 rebounds but neither had an offensive board. Zornow added 10 points and Ream had 7 rebounds.
"Playing in the championship game would have been nice but third or fourth place is good too and we got to play two more weeks than anyone else," said Ream.
"We just told them let's finish our season with a win," Raethz said. "Only two teams finish with a win so let's be one of them. Nothing should be taken away from us and what we've accomplished."