A season dedicated to Maine West's late girls basketball coach Derril Kipp marched on Monday night at the Niles West sectional in Skokie.
The No. 3-seeded Warriors (27-3) went on a 9-0 run late in the first quarter to break an 8-8 tie and never trailed again in posting a 44-33 triumph over No. 7 Maine South in the Class 4A semifinal.
Next up for the Central Suburban North champs is a rematch with top-seeded Evanston (26-3) at 7 p.m. on Thursday for the sectional title.
"He (Kipp) would have given us a B-," said Warriors coach Kim deMarigny, who served as the Hall of Famer's assistant the last six years. "Our execution on offense still wasn't up to par.
"But we can't complain. These girls have a desire to win. This is what you practice for all season -- to compete in this tournament. And the girls did not want to lose."
They showed exactly that when the Hawks (18-14) cut a 10-point deficit to 33-29 as sophomore Nicole Scales hit a 3-pointer with 5:55 left in the game.
Junior Alisa Fallon answered with a 3-pointer and a 3-point play to get the lead right back to 10 points with 2:33 left.
The Warriors sealed the verdict by making 5 of 6 free throws (three by Allison Pearson and two by Rachel Kent) in the final 2:10.
"When we were sitting on the bench during a timeout (after Maine South had cut into the lead), I said 'we can do this' and we came back out with more energy," said Fallon, who scored a game-high 17 points with 4 rebounds. "Maine South-Maine West is has been a rivalry for a long time therefore each team knows each other really well. So coach 'D' put together a great plan."
"If we let them get into a 3-point rhythm, we would be washing our uniforms early," deMarigny said. "So that was one of our goals. We knew they would live and die by the 3-pointer so giving up three of them was better than a whole lot more."
Kent also played a big part in the Warriors' offense with her 14 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
"No. 15 (Kent) and 24 (Fallon) were special tonight," said Hawks veteran coach Mark Smith, whose team was led by junior Hayley Semple's 11 points. "They were difference-makers. They really hurt us."
West's 9-0 run to break the first half open came on 4 points from Kent, a layup by Fallon and a 3-pointer off an offensive rebound and kick out to Catherine Johnson which made it 17-8 with 5:36 left in the first half.
"They went to zone and the half-court trap and we didn't execute our zone offense well enough and turned the ball over," Smith said. "And we get too many shot opportunities. The other thing is that really hurt us on the boards all night long. The basketball gods take care of teams who get second and third chances, and when they did, they often made them."
Johnson also pulled down 6 rebounds in addition to to her big 3-pointer.
"Catherine Johnson came to play," deMarigny said. "Her rebounding was just a catalyst for us."
Pearson scored 8 points with 4 assists while West freshman Angela Dugalic, who had a key third quarter bucket, grabbed 5 rebounds. Maine South was coming off a win over No. 2 Glenbrook South in Friday's regional championship at Glenbrook North.
"That was a real special win for us because it came against a team and coach (Hall of Famer Steve Weissenstein) that we have so much respect for," Smith said. "And Maine West has had a great, great season. Kim has done a great job. We have a lot of respect for them and they were the better team tonight."
Both teams had strong fan bases in the well-packed Niles West field house.
"We worked on mixing up our defenses," deMarigny said. "We knew we had to do other things than just straight man-to-man."
Maine West's first loss came to Evanston 54-40 in the seventh game of the season.
"It's always nice to be able to redeem yourself," deMarigny said. "We were given the opportunity against New Trier (in the reginal championship) and hopefully we'll be able to redeem ourselves against Evanston. You cant take anything away from them. They're a fantastic team. It will be the fight of our season for sure."