When it comes to crunchtime, especially in the state tournament, seniors tend to shine.
Just like Huntley's Sam Andrews did Tuesday night.
The Red Raiders' veteran leader hit 2 key 3-pointers in the third quarter, one to give her team the lead for good and the other to extend the advantage, as Huntley went on to down South Elgin 49-32 in the first semifinal of the Class 4A Crystal Lake South girls basketball sectional.
The Red Raiders (27-3), who set a school record for wins with the victory, will take on Rockford Boylan (26-4), which beat Prairie Ridge 64-57 in Tuesday's second semifinal, at 7 p.m. Thursday for the sectional championship and a spot in the Judson University supersectional next Monday, where the opponent will be either Geneva or Batavia. Geneva stunned Wheaton Warrenville South 55-54 Tuesday while Batavia downed Downers Grove North 57-52 at the Addison Trail sectional.
"I know I have to be a leader and do everything I can to help the team win the game," said the soft-spoken Andrews, who had a game-high 21 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks.
With her sophomore sister Ali in foul trouble, it was even more important for Sam Andrews to step up and help the Red Raiders advance to their second-straight sectional final.
With South Elgin (20-10) leading 22-20 early in the third quarter, Sam Andrews buried a 3-pointer from the corner to give Huntley a 23-20 lead with 5:13 left in the period. The Raiders never trailed again. Sophomore guard Kayla Barreto scored a layup off her own steal and then Sam Andrews found herself alone in the corner again and again she buried the 3 as Huntley took a 28-22 lead with 3:16 left in the third.
That was all part of as 15-3 third quarter for the Red Raiders that left the Storm in a 34-23 hole going into the fourth quarter. South Elgin never got closer, scoring only 12 points in the second half.
"I thought the key to the whole game was Sam hitting those two 3s," said South Elgin coach Tim Prendergast. "Huntley is a solid team, a very solid team. (Huntley coach) Steve (Raethz) does a great job and Sam is the heart and soul of that team."
South Elgin had a lid on the basket all night. But despite shooting just 9-for-30 in the first half, the Storm found themselves up 20-18 at the break as Huntley was just 6 of 18 shooting and had 7 turnovers in the first half.
But after sophomore Nadia Yang scored off a steal to open the third quarter, the Raiders turned it up defensively, which in turn propelled their offense.
"We just talked about hunkering down and playing better team defense," said Raethz. "Morgan Clausen gave us a spark off the bench when Ali got into foul trouble and we got into a better flow offensively and defensively. To come out and make consecutive stops like that was huge. Give our kids credit. They did a great job of responding in the second half. We made smarter decisions and Sam knocked down some huge shots."
Huntley held a 7-5 lead after a tense first quarter in which the teams combined to make just 5 of 23 shots. But after falling behind 12-5, South Elgin came back to finish the first half on a 13-6 run.
"We were able to generate enough offense in the first half and I thought our defense was exceptional in the first half," said Prendergast, who loses five seniors from a team that won two regionals in the last three years. "But then we had a couple breakdowns and we couldn't generate any offense at all in the second half. We had good looks we just couldn't knock them down and we couldn't mount any kind of comeback.
"We're disappointed we lost but we lost to a very good team."
Ali Andrews added 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists despite sitting out nearly half the game in foul trouble.
Yang led South Elgin while seniors Savanah Uveges and Kennede Miller, Midwest Elite AAU teammates with the Andrews sisters, had 7 and 4 points respectively for the Storm. Uveges added 4 assists and 3 steals and Miller had 5 rebounds.