South Elgin girls basketball coach Tim Prendergast doesn't look at Mackie Kelleher as a freshman anymore.
And the 6-foot-2 varsity rookie didn't play like a freshman Tuesday night.
Kelleher scored a game-high 15 points and the Storm held off a late Burlington Central rally to beat the Rockets 47-45 in a nonconference game at South Elgin.
"I don't conisder her a freshman anymore and it's good to see her have a game like this," said Prendergast of Kelleher. "She had the hot hand and she was able to finish down low."
"They were a little shorter and the offense we were running made it easier," said Kelleher. "It was good to hold on. Last time we were in a tight game like this we fell apart."
Prendergast, though, lamented his team giving up a lead late -- again. The Storm (12-6) , which had a 43-34 lead after a Kennede Miller 3-pointer with 4:43 left in the game, had to hang on for dear life at the end after committing 3 near-fatal turnovers down the stretch.
"We won the game and I'm glad we won the game but I feel like we let them back into it and that's happened to us a couple times," Prendergast said. "When Kennede hit that 3 I thought we had it but then we started playing not to lose instead of to win."
South Elgin, which won its fourth straight, built as much as a 10-point lead in the first half before settling for a 24-17 advantage at the break. The Storm's defense helped create 10 Burlington Central turnovers in the first half.
"We didn't play like we normally do," said BC coach Mark Smith. "They made us do some things we didn't want to do."
But the Rockets (14-3), ranked 10th in Class 3A this week, fought back and had the last possession but not enough time to set up anything but a desperation shot.
Down 9 after Miller's 3 from the corner Central, whose losses are all to Class 4A schools, made it a 46-45 game with 1:58 to play when junior Alison Colby muscled in a basket from underneath, was fouled and made the free throw. South Elgin turned the ball over with 58 seconds left and after a timeout at 19.8, a questionable traveling call gave the Storm the ball back with 16 seconds left. Delaney Kelleher then made 1 of 2 free throws with four seconds to play and the Rockets' final shot attempt came after the final buzzer.
"I thought we played great defense," Prendergast said. "Anytime you can hold Burlington Central to 45 points ... I like it. The kids aren't in these situations all the time so it's good to be in a tight game like this."
Miller added 7 points and 7 rebounds for the Storm, which was 19-for-39 shooting and owned a 29-21 reboounding advantage, and senior Savanah Uveges had 6 points and 6 assists, 5 of them to Mackie Kelleher.
"She's really aggressive," said Uveges of Mackie Kelleher. "A lot of freshmen play really timid but you don't have to worry about that with Mackie. She owns the court and she's very dependable."
Colby led Central with 12 points and 8 rebounds, while Kayla Ross added 9 points. Sam Pryor and Shelby Holt had 8 each. The Rockets made 18 of 40 shots overall but were just 2-for-14 from 3-point range.
"We came back in the second half but we need to make better decisions and finish down the stretch," said Smith. "The effort was outstanding and for a player, playing in a game like this is so much fun. This is what basketball's all about."
The road doesn't get any easier for the Rockets. They host Rockford Christian in a key Big Northern East game Friday then head to WIllowbrook Saturday to play Class 4A power Fremd in the McDonald's Shootout.
"Hopefully this will make us better Friday and Saturday nights," Smith said.