When Glenbard South needed a calming influence in the second half of Tuesday's Metro Suburban Conference Blue girls basketball showdown at Riverside-Brookfield, point guard Sarah Cohen stepped up into the role she has played all season.
The junior helped the Raiders slow the game and run their offense more efficiently to overcome a shaky start. They took a 47-41 victory over the host Bulldogs in Riverside.
The play of Cohen who poured in 11 of her team-high 15 points in second half and other timely points down the stretch from Ally Daca and Maggie Bair as well as some staunch defense and strong rebounding powered Glenbard South (19-5, 11-0) to clinch the conference championship.
"Sarah is a calm force on our team," said Glenbard South coach Morgan Kasperek. "She will step up when it is time to step up. She looks to get other people the ball. It is really good to have your point guard who you can count on for some points when you need.
"The girls did a much better job in the second half. We controlled the basketball."
In the early going Riverside-Brookfield's (19-9, 7-4) game plan put the clamps on the Raiders with a triangle-and-two defense. The Bulldogs dared their opponents to shoot from the outside, especially from behind the 3-point arc. Glenbard South struggled from the field, shooting only 25.9 percent in the first half.
Despite going up against a much taller Raiders squad featuring players such as the 6-foot-1 Bair, crafty R-B guard Samantha Bloom -- only 5-5 -- found a way to keep her team in the contest with tough drives and outside shooting. The senior scored 14 of her game-high 21 points in the first half to lead the Bulldogs to a 22-21 advantage at halftime.
The team traded points in the early going in the third quarter before Glenbard South pulled ahead late with 7 unanswered points. Bair dropped in a 3 and Cohen scored on a drive and also made a couple of free throws for a 35-29 lead.
"We stepped back and tried to realize what they were doing," Cohen said. "We set more screens to get open because they were face guarding and the flow of the game got better."
"We were hurrying everything and needed to slow it down," Bair said. "We picked up the pace and set it at our pace."
Riverside-Brookfield fought to the end. Bloom's 3-pointer from the left wing pulled the Bulldogs to within 44-41 with 1:53 to play. But the Raiders held onto the lead as Cohen and Bair pulled down big rebounds in the final minute and made foul shots.
"We needed to get to a few more loose balls," said Riverside-Brookfield coach Dallas Till. "(The Raiders) made some big plays when they needed to and we missed a couple. They are a very good team. They are very tough defensively. It is tough to score on them."
The Raiders are looking forward to what's to come in the playoffs.
"It feels good, but we are hoping for a lot more to come in postseason," Bair said, "Conference is great, but we are focusing on regionals and sectionals."