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NORMAL -- There are nights when, no matter how hard you try, the other team is just better.
Saturday was one of the those nights for the Rolling Meadows girls basketball team.
Not many teams can claim to be quicker and more athletic than the Mustangs, but Whitney Young was, handing Rolling Meadows a 60-44 loss in the Class 4A state championship game at Redbird Arena.
It's the second-straight runner-up finish for the Mustangs, who finished the season 29-5.
"They're obviously a great team," said Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky of Young, which beat the Mustangs for a second time this season. "They have tremendous talent and they're well-coached. They were able to take away a lot of the things we like to do."
Young (32-3), which won its second title in the last three years, used an 18-9 second quarter to put the Mustangs in a 28-14 halftime deficit that they couldn't recover from.
"It was just too big of a hole," said Kirkorsky, whose team went 59-9 over the last two seasons. "I'm so proud of how we played in the second half, but after that second quarter everything had to go perfect. They're just so good. You're not going to go an entire half with Whitney Young not making plays."
The Dolphins, more than anything, controlled the paint on both ends of the floor. They got 10 points and 13 rebounds from 6-foot-5 Texas A&M recruit Khaalia Hillsman, but when she picked up her fourth foul and then her fifth on a technical foul call with 4:12 left in the game and Young leading 53-39, the door opened a bit for Meadows.
But the Mustangs couldn't break through. After senior Ashley Montanez made the 2 free throws off the foul to make it 53-41, senior Jenny Vliet made 1 of 2 technical shots to bring the Mustangs to within 11. But they couldn't score on the ensuing possession and Meadows got no closer as Young protected the basketball and made 5 of 6 from the free throw line down the stretch.
Sophomore Kiara Lewis led the Dolphins with 20 points. Junior Madinah Muhammad added 16.
"We showed a lot of perseverance at that point and I thought we showed our depth then too," said Young coach Corry Irvin, the Larkin graduate who won her third state title and ninth state trophy (and seventh straight) in her 13 years at Young.
"It feels good. I thought this team had the ability to win it."
The Young defense was able to alter many Mustangs shots, holding Meadows to a 13-of-55 shooting night (24 percent), including just 4-for-30 in the first half. The Mustangs were also just 2 of 12 from 3-point range.
"They are an incredible team," said Meadows senior Jackie Kemph, who had 7 points and 5 assists. "They have so many weapons and they're so hard to defend. They're really aggressive and well-coached and they played an incredible game. We just couldn't match them."
Kemph, who will play at Saint Louis University next year along with teammate Jenny Vliet, led the Mustangs with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Kemph is one of eight seniors who graduate from this Meadows team, yet despite the loss in the state title game for the second year in a row, she was proud of her team's accomplishments.
"Everyone supported us and we're really blessed to have so many people who have helped our success," she said.
Senior Alexis Glasgow, broken nose and all, gave Young credit and reflected on the last two years at Meadows.
"I can't be disappointed," said the Northwestern recruit who scored 10 points and had 7 rebounds. "(Young) is a phenomenal team. They can go 8, 9, 10 deep and at the end of the day they played a better game and they were the better team tonight. Congrats to them.
"Overall everybody in the stadium could see our community support and our fan support. It's something no other school could compare to, and it's unbelievable for a suburban public school."
Kirkorsky, who took over the program last year, knows how lucky he was to inherit such a talented group.
"I've been so fortunate to be able to coach kids like this," he said. "You see all those little kids up in the stands in purple that want to be Jackie, Jenny, Alexis someday? It's the best group I've coached, the best that's come through Rolling Meadows and maybe the best that's come through the Mid-Suburban League. And the thing is, as good as players as they are, they're better people."