Glenbard South ends program's best season with a win
NORMAL -- The final game in the best season in Glenbard South school history Saturday went much like the 33 before.
The Raiders struggled to score, their defense was as suffocating as ever, and all-stater Maggie Bair came alive with the game on the line.
Bair scored 11 of her 15 points in the second half, and the Raiders held Breese Central to 1 point over an 11-minute stretch spanning the third and fourth quarters that was the difference in a 35-29 victory in the Class 3A third-place game at Redbird Arena.
Glenbard South (30-4) will bring home its first state trophy, once again leaning on a defense that didn't allow more than 39 points in any of its seven postseason games.
"I better get more pleasure out of seeing them stop people because if I only got pleasure out of seeing them score this would be a rough season," said Raiders coach Morgan Kasperek, now 71-20 in her three seasons in Glen Ellyn.
"We know we play good defense. That's something this basketball team can do. That's an attitude they established early. If (senior guard) Sarah (Cohen) is going to work that hard to get stops, they think, 'I've got to get a stop too.' I think that was the key to our state tournament run this year."
Kasperek also was quick to credit her former high school coach at Hinsdale Central, now her assistant on the Raiders bench, Steve Gross.
"It's no secret here that Steve Gross is behind 99 percent of this," Kasperek said. "I just get to be the figurehead. Anyone who watched Hinsdale Central basketball back in the day, it's the exact same thing. Glenbard South is a gritty high school. These kids work hard, and this is a style and a program we can establish going forward."
Cohen was joined in the starting lineup by fellow seniors Ally Daca and Mady Carli.
"We all love each other and we are best friends on and off the court," Cohen said. "I think you see it on the court that nobody gets mad at each other. We all support each other."
With losses only to Geneva, Mother McAuley, Trinity and Friday's 38-34 semifinal setback to Peoria Richwoods, the Raiders proved they can play with anyone in the state.
"It means a lot to us," said the Drake-bound Bair, a 6-foot-2 junior who scored 39 of the team's 69 points at state this weekend. "I think we established ourselves as a team that can win games. A lot of people weren't expecting this, which made it a lot better to make a name for ourselves."
Led by guard Faye Meissner, Breese Central (29-5) didn't make it easy for the Raiders. Meissner's 3-pointer put the Cougars up 17-15 early in the third quarter, and she followed with a drive for a 19-15 lead -- her team's largest.
Bair took over from there, starting with a drive. Freshman Lauren Cohen tied the game at 19 with a strong move of her own, then Bair gave the Raiders the lead for good with a steal she took the other way for a layup. Her free throw gave Glenbard South a 24-20 lead going to the fourth quarter.
The Raiders continued giving up nothing on the defensive end. The Cougars didn't score until Meissner's free throw with 3:29 left.
Meissner, who finished with 18 points and shot 7 of 12 from the field compared to 5 for 24 for the rest of her team, brought Breese as close as 29-26 with a pullup jumper.
Carli and Bair grabbed key offensive rebounds on missed free throws by their teammates, helping the Raiders hold on despite making just 10 of 19 at the line.
Sarah Cohen finished with 8 points, Lauren Cohen added 6 and Daca 4 while Bair also grabbed 6 rebounds, blocked 4 shots and had 3 steals.
"It's amazing," said Carli, whose sisters helped Glenbard South win the 2013 state softball championship. "We've worked for three years for this. The team we have is so close and we are all best friends, so it's great to do it with family."
Kasperek said former Raiders varsity coach and current freshman coach Tom Nussbaum told her after the Raiders' supersectional win that Glenbard South used to be thought of as "a basketball wasteland for coaches."
Everyone in the program is glad to write a new chapter.
"This group of girls got the rest of the community to buy into what we were doing," Kasperek said. "These girls will establish a major legacy. The way the Glenbard South community rallied around us. I can't believe the support from our fans, our administration, and this group of kids. It's kind of crazy to believe it's over."
It might only be starting.