Glenbard South stops St. Viator
Glenbard South all-state girls basketball player Maggie Bair sat frustrated on the bench during the first quarter of Monday's Class 3A Elgin Community College supersectional after two offensive fouls in the first 3:38.
But she wasn't worried.
"That stunk. That was hard (sitting)," Bair said. "We had sophomores going in and stepping up big time, playing defense well. It's in no way a one-man show. I think everyone steps up every single play."
Bair came back strong and so did the Raiders. They defeated St. Viator 34-24 to earn a return trip to the state semifinals.
The Raiders (26-7) combined two scoring spurts with their usual suffocating man-to-man-defense to advance to Friday's 1 p.m. semifinal against Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (29-6) at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Glenbard South finished third in 3A last year in the program's first downstate appearance. This berth comes despite graduating three three- or four-year starters while returning Bair and junior Rocky LaPonte and sophomore Lauren Cohen, who shared time between starting guard and sixth man.
"I can't even describe it. It's an unbelievable feeling (to return)," Bair said. "I don't think any single person who knows who we are thought we could do this this year, losing three seniors. And to be honest, at the beginning none of us thought that we could, but it just shows how hard-working we are. We just proved so many people wrong. It just feels amazing to do that."
Bair finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 6 blocks. Cohen had 7 points, sophomore Iman Sellars 6 points and LaPonte 5.
Senior reserve Natalie Kruse had 7 points and starting freshmen Joy Bergstrom and Nora Ahram 6 and 5 points, respectively, for St. Viator (25-9), which set a single-season program record for victories in its first supersectional appearance.
The Raiders' key second scoring spurt was 12 unanswered points, finished by Bair's three-point play, that turned a tie game late in the third quarter into a 30-18 lead with 3:03 left.
"We play great defense and I think that carries us forever, but Maggie Bair is a fantastic basketball player and that showed tonight," Glenbard South coach Morgan Kasperek said.
"(Our playoff returnees) have been on this court and done all of this. Hopefully, that little mental edge helped us out tonight, but St. Viator is a great team. They held us nothing. It was definitely a defensive battle that both teams worked hard for."
Oftentimes it was a defensive clinic on both ends of the floor. The Lions surged to an 8-1 lead after one quarter.
When Bair returned at the start of the second, Glenbard South scored the first 11 points of the period and led 16-12 at halftime.
Bair scored on the Raiders' first possession of the third quarter, but they didn't score again for more than six minutes. That allowed the Lions to tie.
The 12-0 spurt included 6 points from Bair, 4 from Sellars and a Cohen layup off a Bair pass.
"We started realizing our shots weren't working and they kept double-teaming us. We kept moving the ball fast and it created open spaces down low," Cohen said.
St. Viator led 22-6 in fouls, including 10-2 in the first half that allowed the Raiders to lead 21-4 in free throws. The Lions also were 2 for 17 from 3-point range.
"We lost the free-throw battle, we lost the foul battle and then Bair is just a load down there," St. Viator coach Jason Raymond said.
"There was a lid on the rim for sure. Glenbard South is a tough defensive team and generally we shoot the 3-ball really well. We had two games where we had 15. We couldn't get that momentum going and it felt like we were fighting an uphill battle all game."
Unlike last year's veteran group, Bair is the Raiders' lone starting senior.
"It's a great team win. I can't be happier for these girls," Kasperek said. "You want every senior to have this end, especially a kid like Maggie. She's more than a basketball player. She's a great person."
Seniors Elise Horbach and Bridget DeZellar started for St. Viator. This season's run followed three straight regional titles but losses in the sectional.
"I'm just really proud of how we played throughout the season and the new freshmen, sophomores, seniors all mixing together," DeZellar said. "We get along then playoffs, I think we just all came together.
I've played with (the underclassmen) before this year. I really thought we were going to do well this year."
"You can't say enough about our senior group," Raymond added. "It's the next step. Now there's belief that our program can win a sectional and get to a supersectional. Now it's up to the next team to carry us through to state."