Four days after his first Christmas in heaven, Derril Kipp received a fitting tribute from his former players.
Alisa Fallon and Allison Pearson scored 18 points each as the Maine West girls basketball team knocked off Naperville Central 62-47 on Thursday to win the 33rd annual Dundee-Crown Charger Classic.
It is the sixth Charger Classic championship for the Warriors but their first since 1997 and first without Kipp, the hall of fame coach who died of cancer July 5 at age 71.
"We just told our team you've got to believe," Fallon said. "We pulled out a good one against Hononegah a couple nights ago and we just kind of implemented the same mentality and remembered the patch on our jersey and why we're here."
Fallon, a junior who helped Trinity to third place in the Class 4A tournament last year, played for Kipp's Illinois Hustle AAU team while she was in middle school. She and the rest of the Warriors are wearing a DK patch on their uniforms this season.
"I knew him well," Fallon said. "It was super-emotional tonight.
"It's been 19 years since Maine West won this. I think we have a good guy up there looking down on us and it definitely showed tonight."
Fallon engaged Naperville Central star Mia Lakstigala in a thrilling 1-on-1 matchup. Lakstigala poured in a game-high 26 points for the Redhawks (14-5), but Fallon had more help from her teammates.
Fallon had 13 rebounds, while Rachel Kent grabbed 12 boards and Pearson had 9 rebounds to go with 5 assists as the Warriors (15-2) won the rebounding battle 45-24.
"They're really big," Lakstigala said. "They're all very aggressive so we tried to hold them on offense, but they would push the ball and get rebounds and turnovers.
"They did a good job of pressuring on defense when we tried to look for our shots. So we maybe got a little intimidated by it."
Naperville Central, which was trying to win its first title since Candace Parker led it to back-to-back crowns in 2003 and 2004, led only twice, the last coming after a Lakstigala 3-pointer made it 26-25.
But Maine West scored the last 6 points of the first half and outscored the Redhawks 20-9 in the fourth quarter after Naperville Central had cut it to 42-38.
"We played hard, but they're a real good team," Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum said. "They attack you from the beginning and all five starters can hurt you offensively."
Jessica Riedl added 12 points and Angela Dugalic scored 8 for Maine West.
"Derril has laid the groundwork for all of this, so we're just reaping the benefits of all of the hard work that he did so diligently for all of these years," Maine West coach Kim de Marigny said. "It's bittersweet still that Derril is not here to enjoy it.
"I'm sure he's hopefully watching from heaven saying, 'Yeah, this is awesome, I waited a long time.'"
Nussbaum, who coached against Kipp for nearly 30 years, also paid tribute.
"Derril Kipp set the standard for what girls basketball programs ought to be like, and so it's an honor to play a team that he put together," Nussbaum said. "I wish Coach Kim and her team all the best of luck because it's a very difficult season for them in a lot of different ways and it looks like they're responding in a very positive fashion."