WW South runs out of gas
Mira Emma was thinking back to Wheaton Warrenville South's slow start to this girls basketball season and the difficult way the Tigers started their DuKane Conference schedule.
"We exceeded expectations," the Tigers' senior point guard said. " ... We could have turned around and said the season's over, but I mean that just defines these girls. It defines this team. We're not quitters. It was a good ride. It was a fun journey."
That journey came to an end at Monday's Class 4A Streamwood supersectional with a 50-33 loss to Rockton Hononegah in a game that was close until the fourth quarter. Hononegah advanced to Friday's state semifinals in Normal, where it will play undefeated Maine West.
The loss was only the Tigers' second in 2019. In between they clinched the conference championship in the DuKane's first season and won regional and sectional titles.
"We knew what we were doing in November and December was getting us ready for the second half of the season," said Tigers coach Rob Kroehnke, recalling his team's 7-7 start. "We knew that we had the veterans. We knew that they knew how we wanted to play. And I think end of January and through this month of February they played almost perfect basketball."
Kroehnke spent the last two weeks predicting his team would keep going until it ran out of gas, and the Tigers reached that point near the end of the third quarter.
In a game that featured 7 lead changes and 4 ties, WW South (22-9) led 20-17 at halftime. But Hononegah (32-4) claimed a 33-26 lead after three quarters and the momentum when senior guard Jordan King, a Marquette recruit, stole the ball on consecutive WW South possessions and converted both steals into layups.
"And that's what we've talked about that we couldn't let happen," Kroehnke said. "I'd rather get a five-second call or a jump ball than to let them run down the floor. She's too good a player to give runs to.
"We were right where we wanted to be, you know? We were playing our game and then all of a sudden that little section right there flipped everything. Then they were playing their game and we were playing something we haven't played in a while: catchup. And it's tough for us to play the catchup game. It really is. We're better with that 2-point lead and controlling the tempo."
"She's been doing it all year," Hononegah coach Randy Weibel added. "She's a great anticipator. She got us going and she carried us. She's a great player, that's the bottom line."
King scored the first 4 points to start the fourth quarter for a double-digit lead. Hononegah went into a Four Corners offense, holding the ball and going 6 of 6 at the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, exactly the kind of thing the Tigers usually do to put away wins.
Emma finished with 9 points, MacKenzie Stebbins scored 8 and Kylie Ruggles 7. King scored 25 with 7 rebounds.