Libertyville answers Rolling Meadows' run, wins regional
With a commanding 28-10 lead early in the third quarter, it looked like No. 2-seeded Libertyville was going to cruise to an easy victory over No. 7 host Rolling Meadows in this Class 4A regional championship game Friday night.
But the young Mustangs squad was not going to go quietly into the night as they put together an impressive 15-3 run to cut the Wildcats' lead to 31-25 on a reverse layup by Cassidy Pardini with 7:30 to play.
Libertyville (29-4) buckled down after that point as the Wildcats would go on to post a 44-33 victory to advance to the Highland Park sectional semifinals Tuesday night against No. 3 Hersey (25-8) at 7:30 p.m.
A basket and a 3-point hoop by Libertyville junior Rachel Rule (game-high 19 points) along with a free throw by teammate Maddy Kopala boosted the lead back to 37-25 with 4:53 remaining and Rolling Meadows (19-12) was never able to seriously threaten the Wildcats the rest of the way.
Three-point shooting had helped the Mustangs get back into the game as four different players scored from long range to keep Rolling Meadows' hopes alive. It outscored Libertyville 13-11 in the third quarter after trailing 20-10 at halftime.
"We just changed up kind of what we were running (on offense). We ran something that we ran more at the beginning of the season and it was a good call for what Libertyville was doing defensively," said Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky, whose team only starts one senior. "I thought we progressed well this year, we played some tough teams down the stretch, and you hope that these experiences that we've had throughout the season carry over to next year."
Junior Kate Rule had 13 points for Libertyville while Maryland-bound senior teammate Emily Fisher (8 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 fouls) contributed in all areas for the Wildcats, who have won 12 games in a row.
"In the third quarter it got a little rough, but we all came together at the and pulled out a good win so I'm very proud of us," said Rachel Rule, who had five 3-pointers. "I've got to be honest, I've got to credit my teammates for getting me open so I'm very thankful for them."
Ciara McMahon led the Mustangs with 9 points while Pardini had 7 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Rolling Meadows' Olivia Zielinski had 7 points while Libertyville's Talya Tillman had 7 rebounds.
"When we lost our focus Rolling Meadows made us pay, and they made us earn this," said Libertyville coach Greg Pedersen following the 27th regional title in school history. "If you leave Rachel (Rule) she is going to make you pay and I thought tonight she just stepped up big."