2016-'17 Season Coverage
updated: 12/28/2016 10:04 PM

What pressure? Meadows back in Montini semifinals

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Just like the previous day, Rolling Meadows faced some tremendous defensive pressure from its opponent on Wednesday at the Montini Christmas Tournament.

And just like its opening-round game against Kenwood, the Mustangs were able to persevere again, this time against a previously unbeaten Evanston team, to land a spot in the semifinals of one of the most difficult girls basketball tournaments in the state.

Getting four players into double figures for the first time all season, the Mustangs finished strong for a 56-44 win over the Wildkits (15-1) in the quarterfinals.

Meadows (11-3) advanced to today's 8:15 p.m. semifinal to face two-time defending Class 4A state champion Benet (15-1).

The last time Meadows was in the semifinals at Montini was 2014, when it defeated Trinity 65-52 and then lost 66-63 to Montini in the title game.

"Playing Kenwood (12-2) on Monday kind of got us ready to play against Evanston's pressure today," said Mustangs coach Ryan Kirkorsky, who guided Meadows to Class 4A state runner-up trophies in 2013 and 2014.

The Mustangs excelled under pressure in the second half, converting 14-of-16 free throws in the final two quarters.

The Spiwak sisters -- Kyra (14 points) and Melissa (12 points) -- led Meadows' double-digit scorers followed by Morgan Campagna (11 points, 8 rebounds) and Katherine Nolan (10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocked shots).

"It was awesome," Campagna said. "I think it was our defense that won the game. We were helping each other out and getting good angles. We were totally playing for each other."

The Mustangs were playing catch-up early.

The trailed 17-10 early in the second quarter but closed the half with an 8-0 run capped by 2 free throws apiece from Kyra Spiwak (1:28) and Campagna (46.3) to take a 22-20 lead at intermission.

Nolan made a great pass over a defender and into the arms of Campagna who converted a layup for the first points of the third quarter.

Nolan then made a steal which led to another free throw by Kyra Spiwak to make it 25-20.

"It was fun," said the Loyola-bound Nolan. "They're a good team and we really played well as a team."

Kelsey Nallon scored on a backdoor layup and the senior guard hit a 3-pointer moments later to up the Mustangs' lead to 30-24 with 4:07 left in the third quarter.

Evanston got back to within 3 points but the Mustangs closed out the period with a 7-0 run and 39-29 advantage.

The shutout run started with 2 free throws by Nolan followed by Melissa Spiwak's 3-pointer and a fastbreak layup by Lily Greifenstein which started on Melissa Spiwak's steal.

"Melissa has been so consistent and confident the last two days," Kirkorsky added.

"I'm thankful to my teammates," Melissa said. "We always work so hard together. If we do not play as a team, we do not win this game.

"Evanston put really good pressure on us. We just tried to stay composed again and look for open passes."

Meadows looked real good when it opened a 43-29 lead with under six minutes left.

Evanston got it down to 9 points before Melissa Spiwak converted a 3-point play and hit 2 more free throws moments later to push the lead back to 50-34. The Wildkits never got closer than 9.

"We talked (after the game) about how everyone filled their roles," Kirkorsky said. "Katherine (Nolan) was the one who put us in position to defend and handle the pressure on both ends of the floor. I thought she was tremendous today.

"Lily Greifenstein really stepped up and gave us some big minutes. We had some huge baskets from our seniors. Kelsey Nallon had some big ones and Clare (Preissing) was consistent on the defensive end and handling their pressure."

Evanston, which handed Maine West and Glenbrook South their first losses this season, was led by senior Krystal Forrester's 12 points.

"Rolling Meadows is a very good team," said Evanston's first-year coach Brittany Johnson, a former all-stater at Fenwick who played at Boston College and is the former Kennedy-King girls basketball coach.

"We didn't help ourselves at all. Our big players didn't come to play and we didn't some things that we normally do not. And that's a credit to Rolling Meadows and how they played. They deserved 100 percent to be playing in the semifinals."

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