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Huntley loses to Rolling Meadows, gains minute of fame

Freshman Ali Andrews led the Raiders' scoring with 16 points
Freshman Ali Andrews led the Raiders’ scoring with 16 points

It happened with 26 seconds left in 42-59 state semifinal game between Huntley (26-7) and Rolling Meadows (30-3).  It was when the black and red stands were silent, mostly seated.

It happened after a pass from junior Britni Siwuda with the clock running inevitably, sand slipping through cracks.

It happened when senior Haley–Sabie, not Ream– caught the pass and took two steps toward the red foul line, falling back as she released the cushioned ball, giving it life as it soared toward the hoop.

It was then, the moment when that ball slid through the net as it swooshed, that the night was made for Huntley, whose fans rose from their sore seats and roared with jubilation.

“I thought I was open, so I might as well take it,” said Sabie, who has hit three of 13 attempted field goals in Huntley’s previous 32 games this season.

Sabie, along with Huntley’s “Bench Mob,” entered the game after a Mustangs free throw with 1:26 remaining in the game.

“At that juncture of the game… it was the right time to put our subs in,” said Huntley head coach Steve Raethz. “What a great opportunity this has been to be in the Final Four and we talked about making it an experience for our entire team.”

The dagger Sabie scored improved her Points Per Game average, which was .6 going into the Class 4A State Semifinal.

“It just meant a lot that he wanted our seniors to get in and it was amazing that since a lot of us don’t play, he still wanted us to have a chance to play on the court,” Sabie said.  “It was exciting.”

As for the rest of the game, things weren’t too exciting for the Red Raiders when the final buzzer sounded, giving Rolling Meadows a 61-44 victory.

“They’re just such a good team to play,” said Raethz. “They made some really tough runs on us when we weren’t able to contain.”

Rolling Meadows came into the game strong against Huntley’s defense, putting up 16 points in the traditional Huntley shutdown first quarter.

“Rolling Meadows is tough,” Raethz said. “It’s very difficult when you have to guard at all five spots. We did the best that  we could with containment.”

The first half wasn’t so friendly to the Raiders, though, who dabbed in foul trouble that hurt them down the final stretch.

“It was tough,” said Raethz. “I thought our bench did a nice job of coming in and providing us with some really solid minutes [but] it was tough when we lost Haley [Ream and Ali [Andrews] to fouls.”

The Raiders did show their postseason-long resiliency during the second and third quarters when they hit deep shots the Mustangs forced them to take.

“We had some plans on some of their players to [open up the perimeter] because their posts were obviously their focal point, and in those cases we were planning on doing it, they came out and hit some shots,” said Rolling Meadows head coach Ryan Kirkorsky. “At halftime we had to try to adjust some things.”

Those shots didn’t go in come late third quarter, however, when Kirkorsky called a timeout with 4:50 left to tighten the screws.

“I think we just made some defensive adjustments,” he said. “We had some games early in the season where there would be sections of the games when it would look like an AAU game with scoring back and forth. When we started the postseason we said, ‘Name a championship team that is not a good defensive team.'”

The defensive success helped Rolling Meadows’ big three, juniors Jackie Kemph (12 points), Jenny Vilet (18), and Alexis Glasgow (16), all of whom were slowed down early by Huntley’s defenders on Friday night.

“Definitely defense feels the offense,” Kemph said. “I just wanted to be aggressive out there on defense. A lot of my teammates got a lot of steals, so we did quick outlets and I think that led to a lot of layups.”

Although Huntley still pulled a few positives from the loss with freshman Ali and her sister Sam finishing with 16 and 11 points, respectively.  Junior Bethany Zornow pitched in 10 points and two assists in a performance that lifted Huntley when it sagged due to foul trouble.

“When we were in foul trouble, I thought both Bethany and Sam really stepped up for us and closed the gaps,” Raethz said.”She just had a great first half for us and kept us in the game.”

The Raiders will play a vengeance-hunting Whitney Young team on Saturday night at 6:30 for a third-place trophy that would be the first in Huntley’s program’s history.

“The great thing about this Ishtar tomorrow, two teams have the opportunity to end their season with a win,” Raethz said. “Something we talked about in the locker room in the post game finish let’s finish off our season with a win.'”

But even if the Raiders leave empty-handed against the Dolphins, they will have already went home with something. A minute of stardom for five seniors who might never play basketball competitively again in Huntley’s first-ever state appearance.

“It made me happy,” Sabie said, smiling.

Photos by Mike Krebs/The Voice

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