Maine South topples Lake Park in Komaromy Classic semis
You've heard of the 'big shot' to end the game.
How about one to start the game?
Trailing Lake Park 7-0 with under three minutes left in the first quarter, Maine South junior Nicole Gardiner finally got her Hawks on the board with a 3-pointer.
"Once that first shot fell, we relaxed and did a nice job after that," said Maine South first-year coach Jeff Hamann.
A very nice job.
The Hawks took their first lead at 10-9 when Gardiner hit her second of five 3-pointers to start the second quarter and they went on to top Lake Park 54-39 in the semifinals of the 37th annual Komaromy Classic at Dundee-Crown High School on Saturday night.
The Hawks (11-4) will make their first appearance in the championship game since winning it all in 2012 and they will face three-time defending champion Maine West (14-1) on Monday at 8 p.m.
"An all-District 207 game," Hamann said of schools from neighboring Des Plaines and Park Ridge. "We love it."
Hamann loved his team's balanced scoring and poise to come back after the early deficit.
Nicole Gardiner led South with 17 points followed by Niki Manolis, who had 9 points with 3 rebounds 2 assists and 2 steals.
"Niki was solid," Hamann said. "She does a lot of things for us. She handles the ball, makes us run and kind of runs our show out there. She is really becoming a nice player."
Niamh Gardiner chipped in 9 points and Greta Miller had seven for the winners.
"We just needed to settle in," Hamann said. "I knew we would. Credit to Lake Park. They're a good basketball team.
"We made a couple of adjustments defensively and offensively we have multiple kids who can shot the ball. Because of that we're tough to guard. It was a great team effort again. We're typically well balanced."
On the other hand, Lancers coach Brian Rupp was looking for more balance. His 10-3 team was led by standout DePaul recruit Darrione Rogers' 30 points followed by Sara Balli (6) and junior Emma Thorne (3).
"We were not good tonight," Rupp said. "When we are good, we are balanced. We had only three girls score and we're not going to win games like that."
Maine South won the game with nine 3-pointers. Caroline Baker, Manolis, Miller and Abby Ciprian each had one.
Manolis and Ciprian went back-to-back with 3s to give South a 26-15 lead in the second quarter when the Hawks outscored the Lancers 22-13.
"We just have to have trust in our process, " Nicole Gardiner said of the Hawks' slow offensive start. "It's happened before. We were down by 15 to Mother McAuley and came back to win. We just have to focus on our stuff and have confidence in it."
Raupp was impressed by that very facet of Maine South's game.
"We were chasing them all over," he said. "It has never been an effort issue with us. They just executed. I think they are the best team we've seen in executing their sets."
Hamann hopes that execution delivers Monday night.
"Maine West is obviously a great team and we are honored to play them," he said. "We are going to do our best. This tournament is 37 years old and it's an honor to be part of such a prestigious event. You can't ask for anything more in terms of the competition we've had the last three days and now we get Maine West. Our girls are excited."
Lake Park, a first-year participant at D-C, will face Stevenson for third place.
"I can't believe this tournament, it's crazy, it's fun," Rupp said. "For our youth to learn on the fly and at this point be in the final four while we're leaning is really good for us. So to be 10-3 at this point, there are opportunities to grow here for sure. We're a young team with two freshmen and a sophomore starting so we just have to learn how to play when we're down."