A team effort in Lake Park win vs. St. Charles East
For her postseason basketball debut Tuesday, Lake Park starting freshman guard Gabi Burgess felt awful before and during the Lake Park girls basketball team's Class 4A Lake Park regional semifinal.
"I am very sick that I had to throw up at halftime," Burgess said.
In between she and the Lancers displayed plenty of energy. They scored the first dozen points and never looked back in a 76-32 victory over St. Charles East in Roselle.
Burgess even was among the Lancers' three double-digit scorers with 18 points. Sophomore Sara Balli had 20 and DePaul-bound senior Darrione Rogers added 11.
"I did (feel sick) but I played through it and we pulled out that win. I just knew that I had to push through it and help out my team," Burgess said.
"We played really well by communicating on defense and offense. On offense we did a really good job of practicing quick shots and we just moved the ball very well."
Lake Park (22-8), the No. 3 seed in the Hoffman Estates sectional and DuKane Conference co-champion, meets No. 5 seed and Upstate Eight Conference champion Bartlett (23-8) for the regional title at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The Lancers hope to join their 1983-84 teams as the only other back-to-back regional champions. Coming off an overtime victory at DKC co-champ Geneva the night before, Lake Park lost to Bartlett 66-63 Jan. 18 at the Coach Kipp Hoopsfest at Willowbrook after takinga 17-point first-quarter lead.
"It's a huge goal for us. We want to win a regional," Balli said. "We want to go all the way to state so we're going to do whatever it takes."
For the No. 14 Saints (8-24), the Lancers showed immediate intensity after beating them 71-48 Thursday, perhaps remembering their much-closer first DKC meeting, a tight 48-45 home victory Jan. 23.
"We were really confident. Playing them a couple of days ago, we were really prepared for what they had coming at us and what we were going to do," Balli said. "We just played really good as a team. We hit our shots. We made our layups. We looked for open players."
Lake Park not only grabbed a 12-0 lead but was in front 22-2 after the first quarter and 38-4 during the second before leading 46-10 at halftime.
By that time seven Lancers had scored and six combined for seven 3-pointers, two by senior sixth-player Brayana Walker.
They didn't even need huge scoring from Rogers, the program's No. 2 all-time leading scorer who had just 4 points at halftime.
"(Rogers) scoring 11 points and we roll like that? When we're balanced like that, we're hard to beat. Now you've got to guard five people," Lake Park coach Brian Rupp said.
"Everyone just accepted and executed their role tonight. That was just a fun game to watch offensively, but it all started with the defense."
The Lancers' extremely active 1-3-1 defense certainly contributed. The Saints had some open looks but made just 1 of their first 14 shots and didn't control an offensive rebound the entire first quarter.
Junior Makenna Brown and sophomore Torrie Kortan finished with 8 and 6 points, respectively.
"I'm shocked to say the least. I thought we were prepared. We had a legit game plan. All we needed was to execute and we didn't do that," St. Charles East coach Aubree Schuett said. "When you don't execute against a quality ream, you get beat by 30 or more. They're a great basketball team. They made a bunch of 3s and I think we got discouraged."
The Saints should be encouraged about next season. They graduate just two seniors and all of their nine players through the first three quarters were non-seniors with just three juniors.
"If they can hang on to the fact that nearly everyone in that locker room is coming back, this one game does not define our season," Schuett said.
"We define success as did we make growth over time and the answer to that question is absolutely and we're going to continue to get after it and hammer at it, chip away at the things we need to work on."
Schuett praised sophomore Olivia Kiefer, who guarded Rogers throughout the first half. Rogers scored 30 in the teams' first meeting.
"Our goal was to keep her under her 30-point average and we did but the rest of the team just beat us and we were slow on everything," Kiefer said.
"Our wins and losses don't show it, but truly I believe we made so much progress (this season). Our offense was not even existent at the beginning of the season. Our defense is so much more intense. We've gotten way better, but we've just got to put it all together at one time."