Gross, Downers North outlast Palatine in OT

Updated 12/23/2021 8:13 PM

Playing in the same girls basketball tournament where her father coached Hinsdale Central to the championship 20 years ago, Downers Grove North senior Kate Gross hit 2 free throws against Palatine with 7.6 seconds left in overtime to lift her team to a 38-36 triumph and to within a game of playing for the title of the Bill Neibch Falcon Classic at Wheaton North High School.

Steve Gross' Red Devils won the 2001 event and went on to win the Class AA state crown that same season before Kate was even born.


"I loved coming to this tournament as a kid and all that stuff," Kate Gross said. "It's great to try and keep the winning tradition in the Gross family. He had some great teams in the past. My older sister played and my younger sister (Abby a freshman) is playing with me now, so it's just great."

It was a great quarterfinal on Saturday as the No. 2 seeded Trojans escaped the No. 7 Pirates (8-7) behind 19 points from Gross, who played the final eight minutes with four fouls.

DGN (14-2) advances to Monday's 4:30 p.m. semifinal against Scott Nemecek's Glenbrook South Titans (9-6).

Palatine standout Madi Stark (game-high 23 points and 4 rebounds) picked up her fourth foul just two minutes before Gross in the final quarter. Stark fouled out when Gross took her charge with 1:03 left in regulation.

"I thought Kate made a great play," said DGN coach Stephan Bolt. "It was a great read. Kate made a big play there and she's the one we were trying to get the ball to down the stretch. She had a great game.

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"Madi Stark is really tough. She can do a lot of things and obviously we didn't have an answer for her. I give Palatine a ton of credit. They played really hard."

The Pirates trailed 32-24 late in the first half but went on a 10-2 run and tied it at 34 when Stark blocked a shot, grabbed the ball and went coast-to-coast for a 3-point play with 2:55 left in the game.

Two free throws by Ella Sebek tied the game at 36 with 1:16 left before 2 free throws from Megan VanBrunt with 18.9 seconds sent the game to OT tied at 36.

Gross' 2 free throws were the only points in OT.

"Every time you go to the line you have to try and clear your head and zone in, that's what I try to do," said Gross, who had 3 3-pointers, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. "Everyone did a great job. Obviously we were in a tough situation this game but nobody gave up."


Kaitlyn Parker added 9 points for DGN. Eleanor Harris led with 6 rebounds while Margaret Fleming (4 assists) and Sebek each had 4.

Palatine received 8 points and 3 rebounds from sophomore Frankie Henderson while classmate Lindsay Plourde handed out 2 assists. VanBrunt, freshman Elsie Martino and Plourde each converted key free throws for the Pirates.

"We had some girls step up tonight who have never been in an overtime situation and they did a great job," said Pirates coach Bill LePage. "But give (DGN) credit. They played great defense, were patient on offense and they didn't make too many mistakes with half-court things.

"I'm not disappointed. I thought we had a shot at the end. We ran our stuff but we just couldn't hit the shot. I was happy with our effort and our defensive side of the ball."

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