The kids from Bartlett just keep on winning.
Without a senior on the roster, the Bartlett girls basketball team may have come into Tuesday night's Class 4A Lake Park sectional semifinal against 28-2 Proviso West a decided underdog.
On paper, that is.
But Bartlett's doing everything right to win basketball games these days and the Hawks did it again Tuesday, pressuring Proviso West into a horrific 18 of 74 shooting night, being patient enough on offense to beat the Panthers' quickness, crashing the boards with reckless abandon and having a deadly free throw shooter.
It all added up to a 59-43 Bartlett win and a spot in the sectional finals - and the Sweet Sixteen - for the first time since the Hawks took second in Class AA in 2005.
"We didn't look so slow today," beamed Bartlett coach Denise Sarna. "We had a lot of contributors today. We knew (Proviso West's) game, but we think we have some pretty decent size and speed, too."
The Hawks (21-9), who have now won 12 of their last 13, will get a crack at their third straight upset Thursday at 7:30 p.m. when they take on one of the storied programs in Illinois history, seventh-ranked and 29-3 Fenwick. The Friars had trouble with Proviso East Tuesday before pulling away in the end for a 61-44 win in Tuesday's first semifinal.
Sophomore Kristin Conniff led Bartlett Tuesday with 20 points, connecting on 16 of 19 from the free-throw line as the Hawks made 24 of 36 from the stripe for the game. Conniff also had 11 rebounds.
"We expected it to be rough," Conniff said. "We had to stay strong. We held our ground."
Junior standout Jacki Gulczynski added 17 points and 15 rebounds for Bartlett and sophomore guard Janessa Baker added 11 points. And despite the fact Bartlett had 30 turnovers, Baker was able to keep the offense under control when needed.
"When we play our game we can play with any team out there," said Gulczynski. "We knew Proviso West was a strong physical team but we played really good help defense tonight."
Bartlett broke open a close game in the last 2 minutes of the first quarter with an 8-0 run that gave the Hawks a 16-7 lead after 8 minutes. The closest the Panthers would come the rest of the way would be 23-20 with 2:41 left in the first half. Two free throws by Baker would start Bartlett on a 9-0 run that extended into the third quarter and the closest Proviso West could get in the second half would be 9, 36-27, with 4:10 left in the third quarter.
"I thought we did a really nice job of crashing the boards," said Sarna, whose team held a 45-44 advantage on the glass. "Christina Carlson was strong inside today and Kristin Conniff was really tough inside. You look at her and think she's kind of a slight build, but she held her own. And I thought Janessa Baker did a nice job of handling the ball. And Jacki ... she just played her game."
Bartlett shot 17 of 43 for the game, and also benefitted from Proviso West's paltry 5 of 18 performance at the free-throw line.
"We kind of thought we could get into (an up-tempo) game with them," Sarna said. "We like to operate at that speed."