Looking to make even more history, Metea Valley was eventually done in by missed free throws, even one by the opposition.
Playing in their first girls basketball sectional semifinal, the seventh-seeded Mustangs (16-16) lost a heartbreaker to No. 3 Oswego 47-42 Monday night at the Class 4A Joliet Central girls basketball sectional.
Metea Valley entered the game after upsetting second-seeded Bolingbrook and then led 27-23 at the half and 31-30 after a low-scoring third quarter on Monday. But in the end the game turned in favor of the Panthers (24-7) after the Mustangs missed 11 of 16 foul shots and Oswego also turned one of its own late misses into a positive.
With Oswego up 41-39 and 1:02 left to play, the Panthers Kelsey Nelson missed the front end of a bonus and Erin Sinnott snuck inside for an offensive rebound and a putback for a 43-39 lead. Metea Valley's Jenny Voytell, who closed out a strong senior season with 20 points, provided some hope with a 3-pointer, but Oswego then made four straight free throws to seal the win and advance to a date with top-seeded Neuqua Valley in Thursday's sectional final.
"I think we just missed the box out," Mustangs coach Kris Kalivas said of the key play by Sinnott in the final minute. "And we missed several free throws throughout the game. But the kids played hard. All we can do is ask them to leave it on the floor, and I truly believe they did that. I'm proud of their effort."
With Sierra O'Neill knocking down the first two of her four 3-pointers, the Panthers led 18-11 after one quarter. But the Mustangs countered with a superb second quarter and led 27-23 at the half as Voytell and Kellee Clay combined for 20 points through two quarters.
Metea Valley, meanwhile, made just one field goal in the third quarter but led the low-scoring affair 31-30 heading into what proved to be a much more open final eight minutes of play.
But after O'Neill added two more 3s for Oswego and Voytell split a pair of free throws for Metea Valley, the game was 39-39 with 3:15 left to play. That's when Jordan Campbell had a big bucket inside and Sinnott followed with the big putback to help Oswego move on.
"Erin's putback on the free throw was kind of a momentum killer for them. That kind of put us over the top" Oswego coach Chad Pohlmann said. "It's that time of year. I thought the start of the game was good for us … but then (the Mustangs) … that team does not have any quit. I've watched them play a lot over the last couple weeks. They're a bunch of gutsy girls."
Voytell did her part with a game-high 20 points in a losing effort.
"I really gave it my all and I know every single one of my teammates gave it their all so that's all we could ask," Voytell said. "This is the best season of high school basketball in my life. We did make school history so we don't have anything to be sad about. We really gave it our all. We were intense and we fought throughout the whole game."