Rogers, Lake Park prevail over Bartlett
After her final girls basketball game on her home court, Lake Park senior Darrione Rogers walked away with a Class 4A regional championship.
She couldn't have done it without a lot of help from her younger teammates.
Third-seeded Lake Park won 67-59 despite an outstanding effort from No. 5 Bartlett on Thursday night in Roselle.
Rogers scored 26 points, right around her season average, and grabbed 11 rebounds.
"It means a lot," the DePaul recruit said. "We came out, we fought, we gave everything we had. Our fans, they were amazing tonight. I'm just blessed and thankful for everyone who came out and supported us."
Sophomore point guard Sara Balli added 17 points with 11 rebounds, and freshman guard Gabi Burgess scored 15. Freshman Ellie Helm and junior Emma Thorne also played crucial roles, combining for 9 points and 16 rebounds.
"We need that," Rogers added. "They're stepping up at the right time of the season. It's win or go home, and lately the girls have been doing a great job. And if we keep playing like that we're going to be tough to beat. They're stepping up in the big moments and it's paying off."
Lancers coach Brian Rupp loved to see the balanced effort.
"For our young girls, they are doing a fantastic job. They're still getting better right now," he said. "Gabi Burgess has got to be our most improved player right now. She's contributing on both ends of the floor."
They needed that kind of contribution considering how determined Bartlett junior guard Lexie Sinclair was. Sinclair scored 32 points to lead all scorers.
"Her taking over this game is exactly what we needed," Bartlett interim coach Kristi Ragan said. "We get it to a one-possession game (in the final two minutes) and it's because of her and her tenacity and her work ethic."
Bartlett took a 32-22 lead in the second quarter on a Mackenzie Hare 3-pointer, but Lake Park scored the final 7 points of the half to cut the Bartlett lead down to 35-33, with Rogers scoring the final 5.
"I think that was the start of their run," Sinclair said. "You can't do anything about it. (Rogers is) a good player. She's going to get her points. You have to contain her."
That run translated into a great third-quarter start for the Lancers (23-8), who took the lead for good on a Rogers basket at the 5:32 mark of the period. A 12-0 Lake Park run put the Lancers ahead by 10, but Sinclair closed the third quarter with 9 straight points to cut the Lake Park lead to 47-46.
Bartlett (24-9) never came that close to the lead again. A Sinclair three-point play with 36.0 seconds left brought the Hawks within 3 points, but they couldn't score any more, and the Lancers made 5 of 6 free throws the rest of the way.
That ended a tough season for the Hawks. Coach Brad Hunt passed away unexpectedly last summer, and assistant coach Joe Eirich took over. Ragan coached the regional games.
"These girls are so tough, for what they faced for the last nine months, I can only imagine, but it showed every second," Ragan said. "All 32 minutes of this game, what we've been through to get to this point. And we're only going to come back better from this. But I really, really feel for these kids."
Lake Park will play No. 2 York at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Hoffman Estates sectional semifinals. York defeated Lake Park 57-34 on Jan. 24.