With 2:24 to go in the first quarter Lake Forest coach Kyle Wilhelm called a timeout with Maine West leading 11-4 after a series of Lake Forest turnovers gave the Warriors an early lead.
The time out didn’t do much as Maine West scored the next four with the crowd sensing there was not going to be another upset on the cards for Lake Forest.
Maine West would go on to gradually increase their lead in route to a 53-34 win, punching their ticket to Redbird Arena in Bloomington Illinois for the second straight year.
“It means a lot to me, to our team and to our seniors especially to do it one more time,” said Maine West senior Vanessa Reyes. “Living the same legacy from last year, to live up to their standards of last year is a lot to keep in touch with.”
Reyes, a reserve from last year’s third place team has played a pivotal role for this years Warriors. The senior came up huge against Evanston in the sectional finals, and continued her solid playoff run into super-sectionals with a few more buckets.
Junior guard Dylan Van Fleet another player who saw little time last year was another key contributor with eight points, five assists, five steals, as well as numerous dives to the floor to keep plays alive.
Like Reyes, Van Fleet is excited for the return trip to state: “It’s different but it will be the same atmosphere, this year we are all ready to achieve the goal of doing better than we did last year.”
But the story of the night (and for the entire season) continued to be the Maine West defense, and rising junior Angela Dugalic, whose ceiling continues to get higher with each passing game.
The Warriors defense stifled Lake Forest in the first half, forcing the Scouts into 17 turnovers on their extended zone defense which lead to easy transition baskets.
“We knew we had to do it, with a team that has the three pointer shooting caliber that they have you have to force turnovers on the perimeter, you have to cause frustration. You can’t let them get hot, it’s a streaky game,” said Maine West coach Kim DeMarigny.
Leading the defensive charge was senior Rachel Kent. The four year starters effort and contribution was noted by her coach: “She can defend anyone, she is the hardest worker I have ever met. When your best player is your hardest worker good things will happen to you. She sets the tone.”
When the Warriors did miss, Dugalic cleaned up on the offensive glass to keep plays alive and extend possessions.
Dugalic would finish the night with 20 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks to pace the Warriors.
As good teams so often do, Lake Forest would make one final push to try to keep the game in reach.
Outscoring Maine West 13-7 in the first portion of the second half, the Scouts did cut the deficit to single digits, but the celebration was short lived as Maine West scored the final eight points of the frame to maintain a more comfortable margin.
“They don’t like to be behind, so I think they look at the clock and the scoreboard and said, ‘Uh-Oh what’s happening’ and they turned up just another notch or two,” said coach deMarigny on her teams run. “ I wish they wouldn’t turn it down, it would make my heart feel better if they would just continue at that speed the entire time.”
Lake Forest ends the season at 27-8 while Maine West improves to 33-0. The Warriors travel to Normal, Illinois on Friday to take on a familiar opponent in Rockton Hononegah, which they defeated 62-39 at Dundee-Crown earlier this season.
Maine West are scheduled to tipoff at 7:00 on Friday, and will look to advance pass the round they were knocked out in last season.