South Elgin tops Jacobs for regional title
Relying on a fast start and displaying a balanced attack, South Elgin's girls basketball team posted a 61-48 victory over Jacobs in the Larkin Class 4A regional championship Thursday night in Elgin.
Senior guards Caroline Croft and Ella Winterhalder scored 17 points apiece for the Storm (25-5), who advance to Tuesday's DeKalb sectional semifinals against Rockton Hononegah.
"My teammates had faith in me," said Croft, who scored 12 of her points in the fourth quarter as the Storm held off a late comeback bid from the Golden Eagles (15-18). "They put the ball in my hands toward the end and helped seal the game."
Croft, who added 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals, was a freshman on South Elgin's last regional championship team in 2019.
"It's a great feeling to get to do it again," she said. "I'm very grateful. Most people don't get to do it twice in a career. This one is special. It's my senior year -- and after not getting the chance last year.
"It's definitely worth the wait."
South Elgin jumped out to a 22-13 first-quarter lead, as Winterhalder and Chloe Kmiec (7 points) each knocked down a pair of 3-pointers.
Clinging to a 9-7 lead, the Storm used an 8-0 run to create some distance, as Kmiec and Winterhalder connected on 3-point baskets and junior guard Raina Yang (10 points, 5 assists, 3 steals) added a steal and layup to make it 17-7.
"We won earlier in the year against them (54-34 on Nov. 17), but I told them, 'they're going to be out for revenge,'" said Storm coach Dan Mandernack. "Like the other teams that we played twice, you have to come out with a sense of urgency. Throw that first punch and show them that we're here."
South Elgin, which led 34-21 at halftime, extended its margin to as many as 17 points on 2 occasions -- the last at 44-27 with 2:49 left in the third quarter.
Back-to-back buckets from Arianna Corrado (14 points) and Janae Gillus helped pull the Golden Eagles within 44-31 after 3 quarters.
Despite a game-high 17 points, 15 rebounds and 4 steals from senior Mackenzie Leahy, Jacobs would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
"They've (Storm) got enough weapons so that if you cover one, they have a couple more who can hit you," said Jacobs coach Jon Reibel. "It wasn't the best way to start off, but the girls did a great job of fighting back and challenging.
"It was their continued fight -- that's what I was most proud of."
Junior Zoie Lewis celebrated her birthday with a double-double -- 10 points, 11 rebounds and 5 steals for the Storm.
"It has been a crazy year," said Mandernack. "We've had COVID, plantar fasciitis, an eye infection -- at one point, we hadn't all been together for a month and a half."
South Elgin now awaits Rockton Hononegah, a team it defeated 50-46 back in November.
"Hononegah is a lot like us -- they're small, they press, and they shoot a ton of 3s," said the coach. "We had one heck of a game against them the first time. We'll be ready."