NORMAL -- There was no masking the resolve with which the Rolling Meadows girls basketball team played Friday.
Especially senior Alexis Glasgow.
Playing for the first time with a custom-made mask protecting her nose, which she broke in the second quarter of Monday's supersectional win, Glasgow scored a game-high 18 points and hit 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter as the Mustangs downed Geneva 51-43 in a Class 4A state semifinal at Redbird Arena.
"It's definitely something to overcome," said Glasgow of the mask. "But coach (Ryan Kirkorsky) has been very helpful to me adjusting to it. It's a distraction but it's something to get used to."
The Mustangs (29-4) will get a shot at the state championship that eluded them last year when they take on Whitney Young (31-3) in the 8:15 p.m. title game Saturday. Young, which avenged last year's semifinal loss to Marian Catholic by routing the Spartans 60-20 in Friday's second semifinal, beat Meadows 54-40 on Dec. 7.
Geneva (26-6) will play Marian Catholic (27-5) at 6:30 p.m. for third place.
Rolling Meadows was never able to get its high-powered offense into normal mode against a determined Geneva defense, which was largely responsible for the Mustangs shooting just 14 of 38 on the night, including 4-for-16 from 3-point range.
"That was definitely a difficult team," said Kirkorsky of the Vikings. "We knew they had won 13 in a row and we knew it would be a challenge. They're a tough bunch of kids. But we asked our kids to step up and they did."
Geneva didn't show any of the nervousness that sometimes comes with playing at state for the first time. The Vikings trailed just 14-13 after one quarter but then fell behind 25-19 at halftime. They hit a 90-second span late in the second quarter where they didn't score and watched their deficit go from 19-17 to 23-17 on baskets by Glasgow and Jenny Vliet.
"I felt at halftime like we were down 6 but we were right there," said Geneva coach Sarah Meadows.
The Vikings came out inspired in the second half and grabbed a 29-28 lead on a 3-pointer from senior Morgan Seberger, whose sister Alison is concluding her Illinois State University basketball career this season. Geneva led 34-32 after three quarters.
"It's such an excitement to play here on my sister's court," said Morgan Seberger who, along with freshman Grace Loberg led the Vikings with 12 points. "It (stinks) we couldn't finish but we tried our hardest."
The fourth quarter became Glasgow's time to shine. With her team clinging to a 37-36 lead, the Northwestern recruit took a feed from senior teammate Jackie Kemph (13 points, 5 assists) and buried a 3-pointer to put the Mustangs up 40-36.
"That was a huge shot for them," said Meadows. "That took the momentum."
A layup from Kemph 22 seconds later extended the lead to 42-36 and Geneva never got closer than 4 the rest of the way.
"They have a lot of weapons and they hit some hard shots," said Kemph of the Vikings. "But we were aggressive and we cracked down on defense. We wanted back in the championship game."
While Kirkorsky agreed that the state runner-up experience of a year ago may have helped the Mustangs stay composed down the stretch, he also pointed to the fact his team is senior dominated.
"These guys have been in every possible basketball situation I can think of," he said. "Their combined basketball IQ is unbelievable."
"We just want to do it for each other and have positive memories as we move on to different things," said Glasgow, who also had 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.
Vliet added 11 points for the Mustangs, who were 19 of 24 at the free-throw line, while Geneva was just 7-for-10.
"To be able to trust a teammate with knocking down free throws comes with experience," said Vliet.
Janie McCloughan added 8 points and Loberg had 9 rebounds for the Vikings, who were also affected by 15 turnovers, as well as losing senior Sydney Santos to her fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter.
"That was huge," Meadows said of losing Santos.
"We had a couple possessions where we didn't take our time and we lost our composure a little. Overall we're happy to be here. (Saturday) will be tough to play but we want to leave here with a W."
As do the Mustangs.