No. 1 Maine West survives Evanston in OT
There was a moment late in the fourth quarter when a wave of panic spread over the faces of the Maine West girls basketball team.
The Warriors trailed by 2 points with just over a minute to play to host Evanston, a team they had beaten twice before. Add in being unbeaten and top-ranked and the pressure was beginning to suffocate them.
But that's the time when champions are truly made.
Maine West reached deep down and found a way to rally to beat the Wildkits 55-50 in overtime in the Class 4A sectional final at Evanston Thursday.
Maine West (32-0) will meet Lake Forest in Monday's 7 p.m. Palatine supersectional. The Scouts stunned fourth-ranked Fremd 49-43 Thursday in the final at Libertyville.
"They decided they wanted to win," Maine West coach Kim de Marigny said. "I saw it in their eyes that they knew they were going to lose if they didn't do something. They didn't want to lose. I calmed them down and told them that they worked too hard to get to this spot."
Maine West got a short jumper from Rachel Kent with 1:05 left in regulation to tie the game at 45. The Warriors were then able to stave off the Wildkits (25-8) as they held the ball the rest of the way, forcing a turnover with two seconds left to send the game into overtime.
After Angela Dugalic had a rebound basket for Maine West to put it ahead in overtime, Evanston regained the lead on a 3-pointer. But that was the last lead for the Wildkits.
Dylan Van Fleet (8 points) and Kent each had a layup to put the Warriors, who were third in the state last year, on top 51-48 with 2:03 left. Evanston knocked down a pair of free throws and Van Fleet then converted a free throw with 38.2 seconds left to give Maine West a 52-50 lead.
The game was then decided at the free throw line.
Evanston had a pair of free throw attempts to tie the game with less than 30 seconds left. However, the Wildkits missed all 4 free throws. Dugalic knocked down 2 free throws and Vanessa Reyes added another free throw to put the game away.
"It doesn't get any tougher than that," de Marigny said. "Evanston is a great team. We haven't had anybody challenge us like that all year."
Dugalic, a 6-foot-4 junior, was a force inside for the Warriors. She had 20 rebounds and 3 blocked shots and altered many Wildkits attempts. She also finished with 11 points.
"My goal is to rebound," Dugalic said. "I was scared for a bit. I didn't want this to end. We deserved the win. We worked hard to get it."
Kent said that once the Warriors were able to get unnerved, they were all right.
"With every close game, you have to get that adrenaline rush," said Kent, who led the Warriors with 15 points. "I think we all calmed each other down and coach D called a timeout and I think after that we were fine."
Reyes said she and her teammates were very emotional down the stretch.
"I saw everyone was putting their heads down," said Reyes, who finished with 14 points. "I was trying to lift them up because I knew this wasn't going to be my last game."