Palatine drops Rolling Meadows to get another crack at Fremd
Trailing 16-5 less than three minutes into the second quarter, Palatine girls basketball coach Bill LePage was hoping his players would keep their composure.
"I thought we handled their pressure really well at that point," he said. "It was the calm before the storm."
Sure enough, the No. 10-seeded Pirates (16-15) stormed past No. 7 Rolling Meadows (16-14) in the semifinals of the Class 4A Wheeling regional for a 43-34 triumph.
They earned a third chance against Mid-Suburban West co-champion Fremd (26-6), which defeated Palatine 29-27 and 61-24 this season. The title game is Thursday at 7 p.m.
On Dec. 13 in a MSL crossover, RM defeated Palatine 54-34.
"We knew we played poorly that game and we had to come back better," said senior Madi Stark, who collected 14 points and 10 rebounds. "We came into the game knowing we could move forward and play our crosstown rival again. Everyone worked their tails off. Everyone was into the game, and even the bench really helped us."
Trailing 5-0, Megan VanBrunt (10 points, 9 rebounds) got the Pirates on the board when she took a pass from Lexi Sabado and hit a 6-footer from the baseline.
Cassidy Pardini's big crossing drive in the lane resulted in a pretty scoop lay in between defenders and led to the Mustangs' 16-5 cushion.
However, Palatine surged in the final five minutes of the half with a 13-2 run that included 6 points from Stark, including a beautiful spin move for an open 6-foot bank shot that got her team to within 18-16 with 1:09 left. Lindsay Plourde then scored on a fastbreak layup (off a turnover) to send the game into the third quarter tied at 18-18.
VanBrunt's rebound layup put the Pirates in front 30-25 before a 3-pointer by Moira Hickey (10 points) closed the deficit to 30-26 with 3:32 left in the period.
Leading 32-27, the Pirates started the final quarter with a 7-0 run, getting 4 free throws from Stark, two from Kim and one from VanBrunt for a 39-27 cushion with 4:36 left in the game.
Hickey's third 3-pointer got the Mustangs to within 39-32 but that's as close as they would get.
"We had some opportunities but credit to Palatine for their game plan and defense," said RM coach Ryan Kirkorsky. "They definitely deserved to win.
"Our six seniors (Nicole Davis, Stacy Dollia, Emily Galvan, Alison Sellergren, Olivia Dizonno and Hickey) have been part of our program since probably fifth grade and have accomplished a great deal so we want to thank them for all they've contributed to our program over the years."
Also contributing big offensively for Palatine was junior guard Megan Kim (8 points, two big 3-pointers).
The Pirates made 18-of-25 free throws (8-of-8 for Stark) and held Meadows to 5 3-pointers after allowing nine the first time the teams played.
"Give Meadows credit," LePage said. "They have some great players, including Galvan (11 points) and Hickey. Megan VanBrunt had a great game for us and obviously Madi. It was great to see everyone put together the things we needed to do to beat Meadows after losing by 20 points the first time. They are a great program and they played us tough. But we weathered the storm and I'm really happy for our girls."