Reflecting on Maine West's Class 4A state championship
One of senior Rachel Kent's most memorable moments of Maine West's Class 4A state championship weekend in Normal came when the team arrived back in Des Plaines.
"After driving for two hours from Illinois State, when we got back to school we put the state championship trophy in front of the two rocks (outside of the gymnasium) that commemorate coach (Derril) Kipp," said the Saint Louis recruit. "He's not here but he's here with us so we got to share the trophy with him as well."
The Warriors wear a circular patch on the front of their jerseys with the letters 'DK' to honor the hall of fame coach who won a Class AA state title in 1988 with a 35-0 record.
He passed away from cancer following the 2016 season in which Kent starred as a freshman.
"Derril loved Rachel from the time when she was a young player," said Maine West athletic director Jarett Kirshner of the four-year starter. "He thought she would be one of the best players who ever came through the program and he was right."
Considering the players who had gone through Kipp's elite program that made seven visits to the state finals in his 35 years, that was high praise for a ninth grader.
Sure enough, Kent played an instrumental role in leading the Warriors to a repeat of that glorious 1988 season.
Coach Kim de Marigny's team matched the 35-0 record with the Class 4A title, becoming the first undefeated girls champion since Quincy Notre Dame went 30-0 in 3A in 2013 and the first in 4A since Young went 34-0 in 2012.
For de Marigny, it capped an eye-popping 95-6 record in her three seasons. Her teams have won 78 of their last 81 games with all the losses to Geneva.
"Kim has done an unbelievable job," Kirshner said. "In three years, she has won three sectionals, gone 30-0 in the Central Suburban North, 17-2 in the state playoffs and won two state trophies (third last year).
"That's as good a resume as you'll see for any coach. Kim does a great job, represents us well and she is a fine role model for the girls."
A group of girls who never forget about the program's past.
"Mr. Kipp was very important to this," Kent said. "I definitely wouldn't be here if he didn't help me play basketball and I think all of us wouldn't have had the same attitude and desire to win without him being a great representative for girls basketball and laying the foundation for us to do this."
In fact, with the encouragement of a friend, de Marigny put forth the theme of 'Whakapapa' for this season.
Whakapapa means genealogy and refers to the process of tracing genealogies. It is a process of laying one thing upon another.
And that is exactly how the coach feels the West program has been built.
"We've picked a theme each of my three years," de Marigny said. "The first two were 'Domestique' and 'Well Done Is Greater Than Well Said' and this year's just happened to be the one that we accomplished the most. We're still building on the legacy that every other player before us set."
Coach de Marigny was a standout player at Christian Academy High School in Louisville, Ky. at the same time Maine West was producing its first perfect season.
And one of the former players from that championship team's run was Lisa Nicholson, the mother of West junior guard Dylan Van Fleet.
No one will forget Van Fleet's incredible first quarter in the semifinals against Rockton Hononegah when she scored 17 points en route to a 23-point game (7 steals, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) and a 56-32 win over the Indians.
And Van Fleet will not forget the moments toward the end of West's 58-46 win over Mother McAuley in the championship game.
"With two minutes left, I was looking at the scoreboard, realizing that we were going to win," she said. "I was starting to see the subs coming in, and then McAuley starting to sub. I said 'oh my gosh' we're actually going to do it.
"Then after the game when we were outside the arena, everyone was hugging my mom since she was part of the last team to do this. And she hugged me and said 'I can't believe this, I'm so proud.' and everyone was crying."
Van Fleet, a standout soccer player, too, will take a brief break and then begin practice with her spring team.
Classmate Angela Dugalic, who scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the title game, will continue to narrow down her college choices in the spring.
"I dreamed about this (state title) for a while," said Dugalic, who is getting offers from major college programs. "I never knew it would become a reality. I'm happy it did."
And it did in quite dominating fashion.
The Warriors won by at least 10 points in every game except a 50-42 win against New Trier on Nov. 27 and a 55-50 triumph in overtime over Evanston in the Wildkits' own sectional championship.
"I was really blown away by the team and the kids, and the way they demonstrated courage, class and character," Kirshner said. "And I think a huge part of their success was the fact that last year's team was successful and had the opportunity to go downstate.
"The girls seemed so much more comfortable with it this year. We had everything set and our itinerary was geared to be prepared. The whole coaching staff, top to bottom, did a great job to help make a seamless transition to each game, practice and meal. The preparation was impeccable."
Just like the perfection of Kipp's team in 1987-88 and de Marigny's 2018-19 club that will be honored Friday with an assembly in the Spectator Gymnasium at 1:45 p.m.
"I think he (Kipp) would be proud of how this group developed and came together as a unit," said de Marigny, who served as Kipp's assistant for seven seasons. "Because it was truly the epitome of what a team looks like -- unselfishness and hustle."