With seeds set and conference standings decided, top teams in the area turned to last minute non-conference matchups for a playoff tuneup.
One such matchup was between top ranked Maine West, and number 13 Marist on a Thursday night matchup on the Southside of Chicago.
Maine West utilized their speed and mix of defenses to defeat Marist 64-44 and finish their regular season with a flawless 28-0 record.
“These games get you our of your comfort zone, out of your normal gym, different officials, that all have different MOs then what were used to in the CSL,” said Maine West head coach Kim deMarigny. “It’s good, we enjoy it all and want to prepare for playoffs.”
“The benefit of these games just get us ready for those tough games in playoffs,” added Maine West junior Dylan Van Fleet. “The playoffs is where it really matters and it’s where we’re going to face the hardest teams.”
Despite the Warriors cruising to a comfortable 20 point victory, Marist came out as the aggressors, unafraid to get to the basket and keeping step in step with Maine West.
Sophomore Sydney Afolter forced the issue early, getting to the free throw line for nine of her team high 15 points in the opening quarter before Maine West’s Rachel Kent kept her in check for the rest of the game.
“She’s a great player, and only a sophomore, so wow,” said deMarigny. “You know Rachel, she’s one of the best defenders in the state but if she gets picked off, we’ve got other people who are not afraid of getting in her face this year. We know we have to work together, that’s the only way we can make this work.”
After the opening 18-18 frame, the Warriors proceeded to go on a 16-2 run behind great great defense and a transition offense led by Van Fleet who finished with 15 points, seven steals, and five rebounds.
From halftime on, Maine West continued to extend their lead. Highly rated junior Angela Dugalic started to assert her will to the tune of 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Perhaps more importantly though, was Dugalic’s improvement upon her previous seasons. Dugalic was excellent passing out of double and triple teams to find her teammates, while drastically reducing her tendency to pick up unnecessary fouls.
deMarigny said: “Last year she kind of panicked and turned it over but that comes with maturity, and i like to think she’s maturing.”
The Warriors continued to hold their lead throughout the fourth quarter while extended their lead to as much as 26 points before both benches were cleared to put a cap on their undefeated regular season.
Both teams now move onto their respective regionals and both expect big things during the month of February.
Maine West especially, who only return two contributors from last years third place team, are one of the favorites in class 4A thanks in large to the experience gained by just being around last years squad.
“Being around the team last year you got to see the atmosphere of a winning team that you want to copy,” concluded Van Fleet. “Last year was also really good for getting us ready for this season too because we have the flow, we know what we need to do and last years great players helped us get ready for this run.”
Both teams will kick off their playoff runs next Tuesday with Marist hosting the winner of Crete Monee and Eisenhower, and Maine West facing the winner of Taft and Lane Tech, at Lane.