Talk about a strong finish.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough for the Maine West’s girls basketball team.
The Warriors almost scored as many points in the fourth quarter as they did the entire first three periods on Thursday night in Des Plaines.
However, their 24 points in the final eight minutes could not overcome visiting Highland Park and Yale recruit Lena Munzer’s big performance.
The 5-foot-8 senior poured home 30 points with 15 rebounds as the Giants held on for a 53-51 victory in the Central Suburban North season opener.
The visitors (3-4, 1-0) built a 38-29 lead with under five minutes to play but West (1-5, 0-1) rallied to within 51-50 when senior Georgia Petersen hit her second 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds left.
Two free throws by Munzer made it 53-50 with 4.8 seconds left before Petersen (7 points) was fouled before the Warriors could get off a 3-pointer.
She made 1 of 2 free throws with 1.7 seconds for the final margin.
“It’s hard when you’re going against a great player like Munzer,” said Warriors senior guard Alexia Prosperi, who scored 12 straight points for West in the fourth quarter and finished with a season-high 19 points and 2 steals. “All of us combined to try and not let her hurt us, but she outplayed us with her decision-making and play.”
Munzer, who scored a season-high 35 points against Grant, played the final six minutes with 4 fouls but still managed to score 8 points.
“It brough back memories of last year when I had 4 fouls in the fourth quarter here (and eventually fouled out),” Munzer said. “So I knew I had to play smart.”
Prosperi tried to take advantage.
“Alexia was playing intelligently,” said Warriors assistant coach Kim De Marigny. “Knowing Munzer had 4 fouls, whenever she got one-on-one with her she was taking the ball right to the basket every time.
“And in the first half, Alexia really did a nice job on Munzer defensively. She was given the assignment and really took it to heart.”
West trailed 42-32 when Prosperi began her tear of 12 straight points. When she scored her final layup for the 12th point, West trailed 49-44.
With 36.4 seconds left, senior guard Taylor Iacullo was fouled while shooting a 3-pointer and calmly made all 3 free throws, the second one bouncing high off the rim and back through the net.
“I’ve had to shoot some big ones in the past so that experience helped,” Iacullo said. “But it was still really nerve-wracking, especially when the second one bounced in.”
“Taylor showed ice in her veins,” De Marigny said. “We put her in specifically to shoot a 3 so we were happy to settle with 3 free throws instead.”
But a free throw by Sarah Glazer and 2 more by Munzer with 16.4 seconds made it 51-47.
Brittany Collins (8 points) led the Warriors with 16 rebounds while Erin Ross was 3-of-3 from the floor for 6 points and 3 steals. Teammate Tanja Vukasin added 6 points and 2 steals.
“We just need to push through the turnovers and missed free throws,” De Marigny said. “The little mistakes we are making really add up.”
Muzner’s points added up to more than half for the Giants.
“She’s an extremely disciplined player and smart,” said Highland Park coach Jolie Bechtel. “She knows the game and she’s like having a coach on the floor.”
A steals and layup by Prosperi and then a left-handed layup by the senior guard gave West a 25-20 lead at half.
But Highland Park scored the first 14 points of the third quarter to take a 34-25 lead.
West’s only points in the period came when Ross hit a 16-footer with 27 seconds left.
“We went guard heavy and put Lena down low,” Johlie said. “On our first possession we picked her up down there and she got us going with a layup.”
Munzer then hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 25 before a free throw by Tina Berardi and 3-pointer by Lizzy LoGrande (10 points) gave the Giants the lead for good.
“That was a good win for us because we had an awful game on Tuesday night (60-35 loss to Glenbrook South),” Johlie said. “I am extremely proud of how the girls bounced back. Regardless of the outcome, they hustled all the way, played great defense and worked together.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.