Maine West downs Evanston for CSL championship
Terri Laux, the Central Suburban League's girls basketball liaison, said that Wednesday night's inaugural conference championship contest would be "a chance for our CSL girls to get the recognition they deserve."
"It'll be great to have a true championship game," added the Niles West assistant athletic director just prior to tipoff. "This will be a real showcase."
Laux couldn't have been more correct on as both accounts as visiting Maine West, the North division champions, and Evanston, winners of the South, put on quite a show.
Especially 6-foot-4 Warriors senior Angela Dugalic.
Dugalic had 19 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots in the first half alone as Maine West built a double-digit lead.
The Warriors held off a late charge by the Wildkits to win 50-45 in Evanston.
'Quite a game," said Maine West coach Kim de Marigny. "Both teams played hard, and the fans really got their money's worth tonight.
"Angela was really fired up and we needed her to step up. She sets the tone for everything we do, so when Angela comes out with that kind of fire inside, the rest of the girls respond to that."
Both teams, Maine West (ranked 3rd in state in Class 4A), and Evanston (the state's 7th ranked Class 4A team) came into the contest sporting perfect 10-0 records in their respective divisions.
And with Dugalic hitting her first three 3-point attempts, the Warriors ran out to a 29-21 halftime lead.
"I took my first shot," said the Oregon recruit, "made it, then kept shooting and it worked out."
Evanston did a much better job against Dugalic in the second half, limiting her to just 4 points in the final two quarters.
And when Wildkits senior Kayla Henning hit a runner in the lane with 5 minutes left in the game, Evanston trailed just 41-38.
The Wildkits had a couple of chances to tie things up but two consecutive 3-point attempts just rimmed out as the home team finished just 5-of-23 from behind the arc.
"We knew they wanted to shoot a lot of 3s," said de Marigny. "It's kind of crazy that we zoned them up for a 3-point shooting team, and they did make a few -- they're very good -- but we thought we needed to protect the inside first and the outside second."
Maine West (26-3 overall) was able to extend the lead in the last few minutes and when Warriors junior Brianna Hernandez sank two clutch free throws with 16 seconds remaining, West led 50-42.
A 3-point shot at the buzzer from Evanston junior Rashele Olatunbosun accounted for the final score.
"It was exciting," said Hernandez of the game's final moments. "A lot of pressure in this game and it felt like all our hard work paid off. We all worked as a team, we all worked toward this goal and it was nice to get it done."
Dugalic posted a final total of 23 points, 14 boards and 3 blocks, classmate Dylan Van Fleet scored 11 points while Jaclyn Riedl, a freshman, had 9 points.
The two teams have the top two seeds (Maine West first, the Wildkits second) in the upcoming Warriors' sectional.
"We had to play good defense, and we had to knock down our free throws," said Dugalic of the game's pressure-packed final minutes. "It's a statement win, but all credit to them (Evanston). They're a phenomenal team."