Hampshire rallies past Dundee-Crown for FVC title
The stage was set for the Hampshire girls basketball team to do something special Friday night, and the Whip-Purs delivered.
In front of by far the biggest crowd of the season, a nearly packed home gym, Hampshire took the lead for good in the final four minutes of a hard-fought 43-38 victory over Dundee-Crown to win the Fox Valley Conference championship.
Both the Whip-Purs (26-5, 15-1) and Chargers (22-8, 14-2) entered the final game of the conference season at 14-1. Both had their chances to take control throughout the game but the typical hard-nosed play from each kept the game tight throughout.
Trailing 33-32, Hampshire senior Ally Cermak drove baseline and scored while being fouled for a 3-point play and 35-33 lead with 3:31 remaining. Roni Walker scored inside on the next possession, then the Whip-Purs tallied their five points at the free-throw line.
"It's nice to have it on our own," said Hampshire coach Mike Featherly whose team shared the FVC two years ago in a four-way tie.
"I don't think a lot of people thought much of us going into the season. It's a pretty special group. It's a great team win."
Featherly is never quite sure how his team is going to win, and Friday certainly was no exception.
Leading scorer Kelby Bannerman barely played in the second half because of foul trouble and finished scoreless. Cermak (16 points), Morgan Haefling (12 points) and Sarah Bowen (8 points) all stepped up.
"It was kind of the epitome of the season," Featherly said. "It wasn't pretty but we find ways."
Both teams struggled with turnovers -- 13 for the Chargers in the first half. They still built a 13-7 lead in the second quarter by making 8 of their 11 first half shots, but Cermak sent Hampshire to halftime up 19-18 with her 2 free throws with just 2.8 seconds left.
Haefling didn't score in the first half, then got hot in the third quarter with the Whips' first 7 points.
"It was a close game and I really wanted to be aggressive and I had to do more for my team," Haefling said.
All 12 of Haefling's points came in the second half.
"She's got the green light to shoot but gets a little timid at times," Featherly said. "At halftime we said you've got to look to shoot. She hit some important 3s for us down the stretch."
Dundee-Crown sophomore Gianine Boado assisted Mia Deegan inside to tie the game at 26 before Katelyn Del Re's 3-pointer gave the Whips a 29-26 lead after three quarters.
In a game with 11 ties or lead changes, the Chargers went ahead twice in the fourth quarter. The first came at 31-29 on Boado's corner 3-pointer, Dundee-Crown's only trey of the game, and the second 33-32 on Katelyn Skibinski's free throw.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, they shot just 9 of 20 at the line. They missed a pair that could have tied the game after Hampshire took a 35-33 lead, and they never got the ball back in a 1-possession game over the final three minutes.
"Even when we don't come out on top I never question my team's heart," Chargers coach Sarah Miller said. "Champions give everything they have and I felt we did that. It's just at times we need to be a little cleaner, we miss 11 free throws, and they hit some big 3s. Credit to them."
Crenshaw led the Chargers with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals while drawing several of the fouls that got Bannerman in foul trouble. Boado added 10 points and 4 rebounds.
Dundee-Crown heads to Cary-Grove next week as the top seed in that Class 4A regional.
The Whip-Purs travel west to Rockton Hononegah -- but not before they enjoy their conference championship a little longer.
"We were led by seniors no doubt about it," Featherly said. "Morgan hit some big shots for us, Cermak hit some big shots for us. Gritty win."