Maine West seniors celebrate with 20th victory
The seniors on Maine West's girls basketball were not only honored before Friday's game but also went out and helped accomplish what no Warriors team had done since 2008.
Six Maine West seniors played nearly three quarters (almost the entire second half) as the Central Suburban North champs closed out the conference season with a 44-22 win over Highland Park (4-23, 1-9).
The victory gave West its first 20-win season under hall of fame coach Derril Kipp since 2008 when seniors Brittany Begrowicz and Mary Kusner helped lead the Warriors to a 24-8 season.
This year's senior group -- Jordan Hart, Monica Liwag, Hannah Kuhn (manager) Eliza Palarz, Richa Patel, Vaidika Patel, Kayla Pociejewski and Colleen Rice -- was part of West's 27th conference championship .
The Warriors finished 9-1 and are 20-7 overall after going 9-19 in their 2014-15 campaign.
"What a turnaround in just one year," said Liwag, who handed out 7 assists with 4 rebounds. "Our chemistry really picked up this season and adding Rachel (Kent, a standout freshman) really helped us a lot."
Liwag said the Warriors seniors practiced together during the week in preparation for Friday's game.
"We had a little trouble early but I'm glad we played well together in the second half," she said. "We were even running the fastbreak well together."
Hart (3 rebounds) led the Warriors with 14 point while Richa Patel and Pociejewski each chipped in 8 points.
"It feel really good to get the 20th win not only on our senior night but for Mr. Kipp because he is proud of us for doing it," Hart said. "He has given us a lot of confidence and we just really played well as a team this season. We were more driven to win."
Kipp has been the driving force behind the program which has now enjoyed 26 20-win seasons in school history, 25 of them under Kipp.
"What I liked best about this game was the fact that the seniors got to play," said Kipp, who has 787 career wins. "It showed a lot of teamwork and how well the kids get along.
"There were a lot of decorations in the gym and kids had fun."
The game was tied at 6-6 after one quarter and West trailed 10-8 before Jessica Riedl made 2 free throw to tie the game.
The hosts took the lead for good on sophomore Catherine Johnson's 17-footer which made it 12-10 with 3:36 left in the half.
West finished the quarter with an 8-2 run, including a 17-footer from Kent, 2 free throws by Allison Pearson and a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Liz Sanchez.
"It was really nice to see everyone contribute on this senior night," Johnson said. "Jordan had a lot of points and she has been a big help the whole season.
"It seems so long ago that the program won 20 games, and it even seems a long time from last year when we had almost 20 losses. Having this success made this season go by so much faster than last year. And it was so much fun to be a part of it."