Lake Park wins another nail-biter over Batavia
Any coach worth his salt will tell you that beating a team three times in one season is tough. It's an assignment they dread -- even if they don't tell you.
But that was the challenge facing Lake Park head man Brian Rupp in the Lancers' Class 4A regional opener against Batavia in Rolling Meadows Tuesday evening.
Lake Park had bested the Bulldogs 47-45 one week after Thanksgiving, and then held them off again 69-60 in overtime just three weeks ago.
So the stage was set, and the game, thought by many to be the best opening round matchup in the state, didn't disappoint. Lake Park built a 15-point lead late in the third quarter, then held off a furious fourth quarter comeback by the Bulldogs to escape with a thrilling 61-59 victory.
As she has all year, Lake Park's junior phenom Darrione Rogers stole the show. The 5-foot-11 guard, who is already committed to DePaul even though she has another season left in Roselle, led all scorers with 31 points and had a game-high 13 rebounds. Senior guard Casey Darre added 11, all in the first half, and sophomore Emma Thorne had a career-best 10 -- and for that effort was awarded the team's game belt by its current holder, Cali Wasersztrum.
Batavia (16-15) got a gutsy 19 points from junior Erin Golden, 18 from senior forward Ava Sergio, and a dozen from senior guard Hailey Orman.
"We knew it was going to be like this; we knew going in," said Rupp. "Good teams go on runs, and Batavia is a good team. They make runs and they make shots. (Orman) got hot and hit some big shots, and we made some really poor shot selections at the same time. But she missed that last one, and that's OK by us."
The first quarter, which had a tie and seven lead changes, was what one might expect from two heavyweights who know each all too well -- a rollicking, back-and-forth period of feeling each other out, jabbing and counterpunching. Rogers wasted no time, sandwiching a pair of long-distance 3-pointers around a steal and layup to help lift the Lancers into a 15-14 lead after one.
Then after Orman opened the second with a trey from the top of the key to put the Bulldogs back up, 17-15, Rogers and Darre combined to fuel a 12-0 run that Darre capped with back-to-back 3-pointers, first from the right wing and then from the left, to give the Lancers a 27-17 lead with 4:20 left. But Batavia scored 6 of the final 8 points of the quarter to trim their deficit to 34-27 at halftime.
After Golden tallied inside off an inbound play to pull the Bulldogs to within 41-35, Lake Park scored nine unanswered points, the last four by Thorne, to build a 50-35 lead that settled in at 52-40 after 24 minutes.
With the Lancers on top 55-42 and the final quarter half gone, Batavia made its move. After Jensen called a timeout, Golden drained a 15-footer, then followed a steal and coast-to-coast drive by Sergio with a steal and layup of her own. Orman then drained a 3 from the left corner and just like that, in less than a minute and a half, Batavia scored 9 in a row to cut Lake Park's lead to 55-51 with under three minutes to play in regulation.
Rogers answered with an 18-footer, but Orman stepped up and drilled another trey to make it 57-54 with 2:20 left. After three free throws by Rogers and a layup by Sergio Lake Park was up 60-56. With :4.4 left Golden converted a strong drive and was fouled by Carly Vehrs. She made the free throw to cut it to 60-59.
Kate Kirkham sealed it with a single free throw with 3.6 seconds left before Orman's last-second 3-point shot was well short.
"I never doubted how hard they'd play," said Batavia coach Kevin Jensen, whose charges shot a solid 50 percent from the floor (25 of 50). "So hard. And they've had to deal with so much this season, with injuries, and role changes, and then role changes back. We got on a good run here in the second half of the season, and I really believe that if there were 30 more seconds in that game we'd be winning. There's nothing else I can ask of them."