For the last three years, all-area guard Nia Pappas has had her share of big baskets for the Palatine girls basketball team.
Maine West coach Derril Kipp has seen Pappas make several key shots, too, because he has been her Illinois Hustle AAU coach.
But Kipp and the Warriors saw a first from Pappas in high school basketball on Monday night.
The Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis-bound guard hit the first game-winning shot of her career when she connected from 17 feet out with 3.2 seconds left to give the Pirates a 49-48 win in Des Plaines.
It gave Pappas a game-high 26 points, 19 in the second half, and gave Palatine a dramatic season-opening win over the Warriors who were led by junior Brittany Collin's 21 points.
"I was looking for my shot more in the second half," said Pappas, who also handed out 6 assists. "I knew we had been struggling in the first half.
"It's always fun to play against Mr. Kipp (Hall of Fame coach with 733 wins going into his 32nd season). It's a little rivalry since he's my AAU coach. I know his plays. He know my plays. It was fun."
The Pirates' final play saw them take the ball out of bounds from under the Warriors basket with 14.3 seconds left.
Junior forward Tanja Vukasin had given West the lead with 19.9 seconds by hitting a 17-foooter from the right side.
Following a timeout, Palatine set up its final play.
"It was not the play I designed, but I'll take credit," said Pirates coach Leslie Schock with a laugh.
Junior Erin Mayer raced down the floor and fed the ball ahead to sophomore Monica Masini (3 rebounds), who then kicked it out to Pappas for her game-winning shot.
"Monica and Nia each have played a year on the varsity so they have some good chemistry," said Schock, whose team was without three-year starting guard McKenzie Wiedemann, who injured her knee on Saturday and is expected back soon.
"This wasn't too fun for McKenzie," Schock added. "She isn't the kind of kid who wants to be watching the game from the bench."
The fans got to watch a close game start to finish. Neither team led by more than 2 points in the second half until Pappas' 3-pointer made it 43-40 with 4:10 left.
"She's (Pappas) a great player," said Warriors assistant coach Kim De Marigny. "You can't take anything away from her. We just didn't execute on that last play. Everyone in the place knew she was going to take the shot."
The 6-foot Collins (10 rebounds) scored 9 points in the first half while the 5-9 Vukasin had 12 of her 16 points in the second half. Vukasin also had 11 rebounds and 2 steals. Guard Alexia Prosperi handed out 3 assists for West.
A 3-pointer by Jamie Lloyd (9 points) gave Palatine the biggest lead of the game at 17-10 with 5:18 left in the first half.
"We came out a little tight, like first-game jitters," De Marigny said. "We're young. But we have some good things out there. That was nice to have a junior (Vukasin) step up and hit that big shot at the end. If we just play our game, good things will come."
The Pirates, who shot 52 percent (24-of-47) from the floor, hope to be playing soon with Wiedemann.
"Without McKenzie, and Morgan (Radtke) just coming back from swimming, this was the first varsity game for a lot of out girls," said Schock, who received 5 points, including a 3-pointer, from junior guard Sami Heuertz. "So we are not in midseason form. You could tell we were lacking some senior leadership out there.
"And Maine West, you know is always going to be fundamentally sound under coach Kipp."
"Maine West is going to be a very good team," added Pappas, who was a very good player, as usual, on this night.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.