Lisle waited 13 years to win a regional title. So what's another four minutes?
Natalie Takahashi banked in a 3-pointer at the fourth-quarter buzzer to send the game into overtime, and freshman Ahniya Melton, making her first appearance since having knee surgery more than four months ago, made the only basket in overtime as Lisle defeated Timothy Christian 46-43 in the Class 2A Lisle regional on Friday.
Lisle (20-11), which won just the second regional title in program history, will face Interstate Eight Conference rival Peotone in a sectional semifinal at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Lisle.
The Lions would not have gotten there without Takahashi, who scored the final 6 points of regulation on three free throws and her miraculous 3-pointer from the right of the key.
"I'm not going to lie, that was one of the most nerve-wracking games I ever played in," Takahashi said. "I was very fortunate (the 3-pointer) happened to go in. It felt good leaving my hands, but with the hand in my face, I was nervous."
That left it up to Melton, who entered the game late in the first quarter and alternated off the bench with the foul-plagued Nicole Cyranoski. With 49 seconds remaining in overtime, Melton drove past her defender along the left baseline and scored to give Lisle a 45-43 lead.
Earlier in the extra session, Melton's 12-foot jumper from the baseline was blocked. It was a lesson learned.
"I hate getting blocked," she said. "I hate it, and I knew I should have pump-faked that first time. I was really excited to play with my sister (senior TyAnn LeGrand-Melton) in the regional championship game. That's what was going through my mind. We've got to get this."
Unlike the teams' first meeting in mid-January when Timothy Christian (13-15) built an early 20-3 lead, Friday it was Lisle that stormed out of the gate behind the hot shooting of Cyranoski, who made four 3-pointers as the Lions grabbed a 25-12 lead with 3:04 remaining in the first half.
But the Lions suddenly went cold, and the Trojans used a 23-9 run over the next 10:53 to take their first lead of the game at 35-34 on a basket by 6-foot sophomore Heidi Westra. The Trojans extended the lead to 43-37 with 31 seconds remaining when Takahashi went on her personal 6-0 run to tie the game.
"We hit shots in the first half that got us the lead," Lisle coach Nick Balaban said. "Thank God we did. Their size just wore us down. They just get the ball inside and their bigs hit the boards. (Sophomore Jordyn) Strube had a heck of a game for them, too."
Strube led Timothy Christian with 16 points before exiting with five fouls late in regulation. Six-foot-2 senior Ava Venema added 8 points and 6 rebounds.
"Sadly, we have done this a lot this season," Timothy Christian coach Michele Strube said. "I told the girls we didn't lose the game, we just didn't have enough time to finish it. We made some mistakes. We missed some free throws that were huge. But I have a young team. You saw their hearts out there. They don't stop."
Cyranoski led Lisle with 12 points and Takahashi finished with 11 after going scoreless in the first half. LeGrand-Melton added 9 points and 8 rebounds.