After 34 minutes of physical and frenzied basketball, the West Chicago Class 4A girls' basketball regional final came to a standstill - literally - with two minutes left in overtime.
That's when Proviso West finally put the brakes on its fast-paced offense and held the ball at midcourt for a final shot against West Chicago with the score tied at 56-56.
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Panther guard Ashley Segers held the ball for 1:40, while West Chicago stayed back in its zone defense. With 10 seconds left, Segers took off down the lane and the ball was deflected to Chakese Williams, who pushed up a shot that missed, but was bumped on the play with four seconds left.
Williams' first free throw hit every part of the rim before falling in for a 57-56 lead. After she missed the second attempt, a 40-foot runner at the buzzer by Wildcat Katie Staiton came up short, ending West Chicago's bid for a stunning upset over powerful Proviso West (28-2).
For Williams, the winning free throw was vindication because she had the same opportunity at the end of regulation when her offensive rebound putback, while getting fouled, tied the score at 52-52. But she was unable to convert the free throw with 5 seconds left.
"I was really happy to get that second chance and I needed redemption from the first time," said a happy Williams, who scored 14 points.
Williams said she was surprised that West Chicago did not come out to play pressure defense in the final minute, but she was quick to move to an open spot in the lane when the last play unfolded.
"It was just something I saw when Ashley was driving, I just came off my screen and went to an open spot," Williams said. "It turned out good for us."
It was a heartbreaking setback for West Chicago (17-11), which enjoyed 12-point leads in the second quarter and played with the lead from early in the first quarter until the game was tied at the end of regulation.
"In my 25 years of coaching, I don't think I ever saw as many upsets in girls' basketball as I saw this week," West Chicago coach Kim Wallner said. "So I just kept trying to get my kids to buy into it that seeds really don't matter at the end of the year, it's just about who gets it done.
"Unfortunately, at the end, they executed a little better than we did."
But the Wildcats performed well, especially senior Katie Staiton, who tallied a team-high 14 points and had five driving layups in the second half when the game was played at a frenetic pace.
In the first half, West Chicago enjoyed a 28-16 lead but settled for a 31-25 halftime lead, mostly on the strength of hitting 10 of 12 foul shots in the second quarter.
Proviso West leaned on center Britney Landers, who tied Williams for team-high honors with 14 points, but also corralled a game-high 12 rebounds. Segers finished with 13 points for the Panthers.
As for the overtime's fateful final two minutes, Wallner knew she had no choice but to keep her defense packed close to the basket.
"We knew their quickness and ability to drive would be difficult for us if we pulled out of our zone," Wallner said.
Proviso West coach Kellee Robertson orchestrated her team's final possession, giving the Panthers the signal to charge with 10 seconds left after the long standstill.
"We're pretty comfortable in a man-to-man situation, so I was hoping for an opportunity to get a shot up in that situation," Robertson said of her attempt to get West Chicago to get out of its zone. "We weren't getting a lot of calls tonight, but we got it there at the end.
"We most definitely were expecting a tough game out of West Chicago," Robertson said. "We didn't bring it in the beginning of the game and we suffered for it.
"A win is a win, but that was a tough one."
St. Joseph 53, Glenbard South 45: The No. 5 seed Chargers pulled away from a 28-28 halftime tie to beat the No. 4 Raiders in the Class 3A Harper regional final.
Patrice Hicks paced Glenbard South (17-12) with 16 points before fouling out with six minutes left. Nevena Markovic added 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals.
Octavia Brown scored 14 points for St. Joseph (18-10), who plays No. 1 Montini on Tuesday in the Nazareth sectional semifinal.