Morgan Campagna said her Rolling Meadows girls basketball team wanted to come out with a bang to start the postseason.
"Because we wanted this game to dictate how we'd do for the rest of the state playoffs," said the 5-foot-11 senior forward.
Well, if Tuesday's opener is any indication, the Mustangs will do quite well.
Producing one of their finest defensive performance of the season, the Mustangs led 46-10 after three quarters when the starters and first players off the bench went to the bench for good.
With the 52-22 triumph over No. 14 seeded Glenbard North (12-15), the No. 3 Mustangs (21-7) advanced to Thursday's championship game of the Conant Class 4A regional and will face No. 6 St. Charles North at 7 p.m.
"They're quick on defense," said Panthers coach John Chamberlain of the Mustangs. "And I was equally impressed with how they push the ball up the floor. They are real quick in transition."
It was Kelsey Nallon's 3-point play off a transition layup that gave the Mustangs the lead for good at 5-2.
A reverse layup by junior guard Leah Miller got Glenbard North to within 6-4 but the Mustangs then proceeded on a 23-4 run to close out the half leading 29-8.
The Mustangs' tight man-to-man defense was able to limit the shots by the Panthers and make sure there were very few offensive rebounds.
"I thought we did a better job talking and helping each other out," said Campagna, who helped the Mustangs' offense with a game-high 17 points.
"Morgan showed a combination of great presence (points, rebounds, steals and assists) everywhere on the floor and she played under control," said Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky.
Senior Kyra Spiwak added 12 points for the Mustangs while classmates Katherine Nolan and Nallon each chipped in 6.
"I think we were playing off each other," Campagna said. "We were trying to show that we deserve to have be here."
"I thought ours kids really came out with defensive intensity," Kirkorsky added. "They were connecting on the defensive end."
Panthers freshman guard Nevaeh King connected for all 6 of her team-high points with 3 consecutive baskets in the fourth quarter.
Miller and senior guard Zakiya Newsome each chipped in 4 points for the Panthers.
"Going up against their quickness, we talked about how our legs might be tired from playing the night before (play-in win)," Chamberlain said. "And we don't go that deep. We said we had to overcome that and try to get back on defense as quickly as we could.
"But it gets hard, too, when you are facing a deficit. It was a tall order and it snowballed."
Chamberlain praised his team for its turnaround during the season.
He said the make-or-break point came in mid December when the Panthers lost a starter (junior forward Lauren Lee to a ACL injury for which she recently had surgery).
"We lost a starter (one of the team's top scorers at 10 ppg) and the girls really banded together," Chamberlain said. "We had some quality wins in the second half. We really started running our stuff well and started playing better which was nice to see."