WW South shuts down Bartlett for sectional crown
Bartlett freshman Mackenzie Hare completed a 4-point play with 1:55 left in the first quarter Thursday night in the Class 4A Batavia sectional championship game, cutting Wheaton Warrenville South's lead to 9-7.
As rare as that 4-point play is, it was nowhere near as unique as what was about to follow.
Bartlett didn't score again the rest of the first quarter.
Then Bartlett didn't score in the second quarter.
And, unbelievably, Bartlett also didn't score in the third quarter.
No drive down the lane. Not a free throw. Or a steal and breakaway layup. No 3-pointers from a normally high-powered offense that just scored 60 points on the same court three nights earlier against Geneva. No offensive rebound putbacks off those missed 3s.
Wheaton Warrenville South prides itself on its defense, and it's never been better than Thursday night's 37-22, back-to-back shutout quarters, sectional-clinching victory.
"As you can tell, we're all about defense," Tigers coach Rob Kroehnke said. "I don't have college basketball players that can score. We win with our defense. We stay in games with our defense. The effort these kids put in, I'm so proud of them. I'm so happy they had this opportunity and showed everybody what they can do defensively."
Wheaton Warrenville South (23-8) advances to play Rockton Hononegah at 7 p.m. Monday in the Class 4A Streamwood supersectional.
It's the third sectional title for WW South and first since 2013. The program also won two sectionals as Wheaton Central.
The Tigers, who came from 20 points down to beat Conant in their regional opener, lost to Geneva in last year's sectional championship.
"I'm so excited because I've been in playoffs four years and Geneva ended it two times for us and we just wanted it more than anything," senior Mackenzie Stebbins said.
Stebbins is part of an all-senior starting lineup with Mira Emma, Abby Struebing, Kylie Ruggles and Maria Dohse.
Bartlett (29-5) provided quite a contrast, starting one senior, three sophomores and a freshman.
The Tigers focused on stopping sophomore Lexie Sinclair and Hare, who scored 26 and 15 points, respectively, in the sectional semifinal. Sinclair finished with 7 points and Hare 4 -- on that 4-point play.
"We had to key on certain players and that's what we did," Emma said. "Those two are great players. You stop one of them and it might break down a little. That was our game plan and execute on our end. That's our plan all year."
Emma got the Tigers going early with 8 points in the first quarter including a pair of 3-pointers for a 9-7 lead.
While the Hawks went scoreless in the second quarter the Tigers were barely better, getting a 3-point basket from Ruggles for the only points of the quarter and a 12-7 halftime lead.
WW South's 11 third-quarter points felt like an offensive explosion. It included a short jumper from Struebling, a corner 3 by Emma, a layup by Stebbins and a putback from Ruggles for a 22-7 lead going to the fourth quarter.
Bartlett got plenty of close looks but couldn't get anything to drop, missing all 17 of its shots in the middle two quarters.
"They slow us down and we're a fast-paced team," said Hare, who set the school's single season record for 3-pointers. "It felt like we had a cap on the basket for two quarters. It just wasn't going in. Nothing was falling. We couldn't get the momentum going."
The Hawks' 18-minute drought finally ended when Savannah Standefer drove for a basket 9 seconds into the fourth quarter.
That got Bartlett going. Justina Hernandez followed a 3-pointer, Hare assisted a cutting Sinclair for a basket and Shelly Banks scored on a Hernandez assist for a 9-0 run to pull within 23-16 with six minutes remaining.
But Hernandez fouled out moments later, and despite missing 10 free throws in the fourth quarter the Tigers pulled away.
Emma led WW South in scoring with 16 points. Stebbins added 11 points with 7 rebounds and Ruggles grabbed 10 rebounds to go with her 7 points.
Bartlett, averaging 61.2 points entering the game, shot 19 percent (9 for 47) from the field and attempted just 3 free throws, making one.
"While they are a great defensive team, I felt we missed a lot of really good shots," said Hawks coach Brad Hunt, whose team was trying for its first sectional since the 2012 team finished third in state. "We got the ball in the middle of the zone and attacked the rim and it didn't fall. And then they work 30-45 seconds off offensively and it shortens the game.
"It wasn't our day today. I thought our girls played hard, we just couldn't make a basket. We have a bright future but we still have to go to work and do some things differently."