The Mash crew is at Redbird Arena in Normal covering the girls basketball state finals for Class 3A and 4A. Check out coverage from Mashers Marek Makowski of Huntley and Amon Rizvi of Bartlett throughout the day, and full coverage in Thursday’s edition of The Mash at your school.

Mash photos by Amon Rizvi, Bartlett

CLASS 4A championship game
Whitney Young had a lot on the line against Edwardsville in the Class 4A championship game.  The Dolphins had a perfect season and a state title to play for while head coach Corry Irvin was coaching for her 300th career victory.

And as it had done all season, Whitney Young cruised to a victory over Edwardsville, 63-51.

The closest the Tigers would get to the  Dolphins was before tipoff, as Whitney Young scored the first points of the game and never trailed.  Whitney Young came out hot, putting up 16 points in the first quarter.  More of the same followed in the second quarter as the Dolphins took a 34-12 lead going into the half.

However, Whitney Young’s first-half performance was holistic–it outrebounded Edwardsville by seven and it forced more turnovers than Edwardsville by 10.

CLASS 4A third-place game (UPDATED: 8:23 p.m.)
The Bartlett Hawks are not a conventional basketball team. Instead of having one of two team captains, the Hawks have four.

And those four captains all stepped up late in a  62-59 overtime victory over Loyola Academy in the Class 4A third-place game.

With Loyola leading Bartlett by four points with over one minute remaining in the fourth period, Bartlett’s captains worked together.

Haley Videckis hit three free throws to cut Loyola’s four-point lead to one with 23 seconds left.

Kristin Conniff drained a three-pointer to tie the game at 50 with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, which was assisted by a pass from co-captain Janessa Baker.

And Lia Palmer drew a foul and sunk both free throws to give Bartlett a two-point lead with one second remaining in overtime.

Although Bartlett won the game, it did not come easily.  The Hawks battled the Ramblers in a stingy first half which featured 12 total turnovers and field goal percentages of 28.6 and 31.8, respectively.

The third quarter was smoother for both teams.  Bartlett drove to the paint more and scored 17 points in the third quarter, just three fewer than it did in the first half.  Loyola shifted its offensive emphasis behind the three-point arc, and it paid off as Loyola scored 19 points.

However, Loyola did come out of the loss with a few sweet moments.  The fourth-place finish was head coach Jeremy Schoenecker’s first placing Downstate.

Both teams contributed to a gesture at the start of the game.

Loyola senior guard Colleen McShane had concussion-like symptoms going into the game, but both teams still wanted her to start.  So, McShane started for the tip-off and once Bartlett controlled the ball, the Hawks called a time out so that she could be substituted out of the game.

CLASS 3A championship game (UPDATED: 5:06 p.m.)

Neither of the two teams who played in the Class 3A girls basketball championship game had expected to be there.

Montini was going for its third title in a row on Saturday, but with a weaker team than last season’s squad, several Lady Broncos and even Head Coach Jason Nichols said they were surprised to make it Downstate.

“Nobody really expected us to be here,” Nichols said.  “I thought Hillcrest and Springfield would just outplay us.”

Vernon Hills, on the other hand, was playing in its first girls state final in school history.

“It started last year,” Vernon Hills coach Paul Brettner said.  “We lost in triple overtime in the regional final and we brought six kids back who were really hungry for that not to happen again.”

Montini (31-5) beat Vernon Hills (26-5) 56-38 in Saturday’s championship game which finally gave the Lady Broncos their trifecta of trophies.

The Lady Broncos’ victory started early as Montini’s defense came out aggressive in the first half, allowing just 10 points–all of which were free throws.  Its offense also lit up the Cougars’ defense for 31 points in the first 16 minutes of play.

Vernon Hills showed life in the second half by going on an 8-3 run. Montini answered back with its potent offense.

“What happened in the second half was we weren’t moving the ball, so that’s why they stuck around,” Nichols said.  “So we [had] to move the basketball because they had an offense that could attack and shoot the ball.”

Although his team scored more than 50 points, Nichols prioritizes defense to his players.  His philosophy has paid off as Montini has averaged 32 points allowed per game in the playoffs.

“[Nichols says that] defense is more important to win a game,” Montini senior forward Tianna Brown said.  “We did it well today.”

Something Vernon Hills players took away from the game was the support its players received from fans.  Nearly 400 Cougars fans showed up for their semifinal game last night, according to players, and they returned to pack all but a few seats in their student section during the championship game.

“I think the fans are amazing,” Vernon Hills senior guard Sydney Smith said, who finished with a game-high 17 points.  “They give you energy to help you play with and they pump you up.”

Montini fans will have something to look forward to next year as the Broncos attempt to make it four championships in a row–something that has never been done in IHSA girls basketball history.

–Marek Makowski, Huntley

CLASS 3A third-place game (UPDATED: 1:47 p.m.)

Hillcrest replicated its coach’s intensity in Saturday’s 3A third place game against Springfield, a 70-54 Lady Hawks victory at Redbird Arena in Normal.

John Maniatis, who has been coaching at Hillcrest for 18 years, has brought back-to-back second-place finishes for the Lady Hawks in the past two years.  His philosophy showed on the court.

“Our mantras [are] play hard, be smart, play aggressively, [and] play with character,” Maniatis said.

Both teams came into the game evenly matched.  Although Hillcrest took an early lead in the first period, Springfield fought back and tied the game at 17 going into the second quarter.

Springfield turned the tables in the second quarter, commanding an eight-point lead at one pointn with 3 minutes 40 seconds left in the second period.  However, Hillcrest fought back to close the deficit to three at the half.

“When they got on that run and went up eight, we called a time out and said we had to play loose, one posession at a time,” Maniatis said.

Springfield senior guard Zahna Medley went head-to-head with fellow all-state team member and Hillcrest senior guard Shannise Heady in the first half, as both girls led their teams with 7 and 12 points, respectively.

Springfield gave way in the second half as the Lady Hawks started the third quarter with a 9-1 run.  Hillcrest then extended its lead to nine points as the game went into the final period with a 49-40 lead.

“We knew that the first three minutes of the second half were going to be key,” Maniatis said.

Although Springfield outscored Hillcrest in the fourth period, Hillcrest’s third-quarter separation was enough.  Hillcrest had been held short on points in the paint in its sectional and supersectional games, but it fought the streak.  The Lady Hawks finished with 40 points in the paint with half of them coming off of fast-breaks.

The victory has set a new precedent for the girls basketball program at Hillcrest.

“[Heady, Jahmia Phillips, and Samirah Ali] are all going to Division I schools and, as I said yesterday, they are a gold standard,” Maniatis said.

–Marek Makowski, Huntley

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The Mash is the Chicago Tribune's newspaper and website written for teens, by teens. The paper is distributed for free every other Thursday at Chicago-area high schools and is written largely by high school students.

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