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For the fifth time since 2008, the Mid-Suburban League East will be represented in the final four of the Class 4A girls basketball state finals at Illinois State's Redbird Arena.
Rolling Meadows, led by second-year coach Ryan Kirkorsky, has become the first MSL team in 38 years to make repeat visits to the semifinals of the tourney, which began in 1977.
The Mustangs (28-4) face Geneva (26-5) in Friday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal followed by Marian Catholic vs. Whitney Young in the second semifinal.
Meadows did not play Geneva during the regular season. The Mustangs lost in their eighth game to Whitney Young, 54-40 and dropped a 75-59 decision to Marian Catholic in their 20th game of the season.
The previous MSL East teams in the last six years which have come within two games of a state crown are Buffalo Grove (2008), Wheeling (2009), Hersey (20-10) and last year's Rolling Meadows team which lost in the title game by 1 point to Marian Catholic.
All five starters are back from the Meadows' runner-up team.
"It's surreal," said Mustangs senior forward Jenny Vliet about returning to Redbird Arena for a second straight year. "Especially to do it with the same group of girls minus Morgan (Keller, first girl off the bench). It's something none of us will ever forget."
You can bet Keller won't forget her teammates.
She is now studying at Illinois State where she is a member of the track and field team. So chances are pretty good she'll be on hand to watch her alma mater.
"She'll definitely be there," Vliet offered.
And Mustangs fans will be there watching Friday to see if their team can become only the fourth MSL team to play for a state title -- Elk Grove (1981) and Buffalo Grove (2000) won it and Meadows lost in the final second last year.
"The challenge of playing against the high level of competition in the MSL prepared us for our postseason success the last two years," said Kirkorsky, whose team played MSL champion Fremd three times this season in addition to the tough MSL East schedule.
Geneva, coached by Sarah Meadows, is led by 6-foot-2 forward Grace Loberg, a freshman who joined the varsity after spending the first month of the season dominating on the sophomore team.
Once called up to varsity, she had an immediate impact and now averages a team-high 14.3 points and 8.8 rebounds.
Loberg's 18 points led Geneva in its 60-41 supersectional win over Rockford Boylan on Monday at Judson University.
Other top scorers are 6-1 senior guard-forward Sidney Santos (8.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists), 5-10 junior forward Janie McCloughan (11.4 points, 6.1 rebounds), 5-11 senior guard Morgan Seberger (11.0 points), 6-0 junior guard-forward Abby Novak (7.2 points) and 5-9 senior guard Michaela Loebel (6.8 points).
"I think their (Geneva's) posts are very good," said Vliet, who plays a key role inside for the Mustangs along with 6-1 senior Ashley Montanez. "Huntley (last year's semifinal opponent) had very good posts, too. I think there will be some tough matchups (against Geneva)."
The Vikings, who shared the Upstate Eight River crown with Batavia, have won 13 straight games. They were the No. 5 seed in the Addison Trail sectional.
"They are one of those teams which is really hot right now," Kirkorsky said. "They've made some changes over the course of the season.
"They brought up the freshman and that has made a big difference, and they've gotten one of their players (Loebel) back from an injury (knee)."
Geneva's losses are to Batavia (2), Downers Grove North, Huntley and St. Thomas More, the Class 2A state champ.
"They are just a solid team," Kirkorsky said. "The type you would expect to see downstate, where every player on the court is good and does a lot of different things. They can play a lot of different ways."
Rolling Meadows has also shown it can play varied styles, either up-tempo or half-court like it did twice against Fremd this season.
The Mustangs were able to run quite a bit in their 60-43 supersectional triumph over New Trier, a game in which they played for more than 19 minutes without Northwestern recruit Alexis Glasgow (17.4 points per game).
Glasgow had scored 7 points and grabbed 4 rebounds when she suffered a broken nose in the second quarter (3:27 left). She is expected to play Friday with a face mask.
All-state senior guard Jackie Kemph (St. Louis recruit) scored a game-high 25 points with 7 assists against the Trevians while Vliet added 9 pointds and 8 rebounds. Sami Kay had a big 3-pointer and finished with 5 points for the Mustangs while Ashley Montanez (University of Indianapolis recruit) had 4 points and 4 rebounds.
Allie Kemph (4 points), Katie Shewmon (6 rebounds) and Elizabeth Vasilogambros all played key roles off the bench to help fill in for Glasgow.
"I thought defensively we executed the game plan about as well as we could have hoped for," Kirkorsky said about the supersectional win, which was the second in school history.