Rolling Meadows withstands Glenbard West comeback bid
If this was just opening night, how much fun is the rest of the girls basketball season going to be for Rolling Meadows and Glenbard West?
Rolling Meadows walked away with a thrilling 56-52 nonconference victory and the knowledge it kept its composure under pressure to earn the win. Glenbard West left Biester Gym excited about how it cut an 18-point third-quarter deficit to 2 with a chance to tie in the final minute.
"Honestly, we walked in (to the postgame locker room) and were like, we're really impressed with the way we played," Hilltoppers senior Taylor Huff said. "Especially the freshmen that came in and really pulled it for us."
The Mustangs (1-0) enjoyed the first half, jumping out to a 24-13 halftime lead.
"We were feeling pretty good," Rolling Meadows senior Susannah Holifield said. "I thought we played really hard together, especially for the first time we were out there together."
Things were a little different in the other locker room at halftime.
"We were definitely down a little bit, but the seniors were trying to pick everyone up," Huff said. "We knew that this happens a lot, and especially with, again, a young team. Just keeping spirits up and understanding that effort is really what matters."
Rolling Meadows built the lead to 33-15 with about five minutes to play in the third quarter, but then Glenbard West (0-1) started getting its shots to drop. A Huff basket followed by a Maggie Stutelberg steal and 3-pointer cut the Mustangs' lead to 37-31 with 1:30 left in the third.
"Our young kids, I thought they made some mistakes but also made some huge plays, knocked down some free throws at the end," Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. "And then you credit Glenbard West. Those kids made some big shots late."
Shooting was a big problem for the Hilltoppers in the first half. They made just 3 of 20 shots in the first 16 minutes, including just 1 of 12 from 3-point range. They made 7 of 25 3-pointers in the second half.
"Offensively, we got some shots to fall," Hilltoppers coach Kristi Faulkner added about the second half. "We got a little bit more flow. I think were a little impatient in the first half in terms of shot selection. In the second half we got some better looks and kind of took our time a little bit."
The Mustangs made 20 of 26 free throws for the game, 13 of 18 in the fourth quarter.
"We have a lot of new players on varsity this year and they were able to keep their composure under the intense situation and knock down free throws at the end," Holifield said.
Rolling Meadows bent but never broke. Glenbard West finally edged closer in the final two minutes of the game. senior Emma Hall's 3 with 1:14 left cut the margin to 2, but Rolling Meadows junior Sam Elenz made a free throw.
Sophomore guard Emily Roberts converted a pair of free throws with 3.5 seconds to play to make it a 2-point game again, but Elenz finished the game with two more free throws of her own.
So what did the teams learn from Day One?
"I just think we work really well together and there's really good chemistry on the floor," Holifield said.
"I think we have heart and we have resiliency, and I think we'll keep working on our fluidity on offense," Faulkner said. "We've got a long way to go, but we're really excited about this group."
Holifield led the Mustangs with 16 points.
"That's her just kind of every day. We've been talking to her since probably fifth-grade feeder for her to be more assertive and look for her shot," Kirkorsky said. "And for us to be good she's going to need to do that, and I thought she was assertive on both ends and really had a great game."
Madi Niedbala and Alison Sellergren added 12 points each for the Mustangs. Rolling Meadows lost senior Bridget Rolla to an ankle injury in the second quarter. She did not return.
Huff scored 20 points for the Hilltoppers, and Stutelberg added 16 points.