Add another first to the resume of the still-undefeated Rolling Meadows girls basketball team.
For the first time this season, the Mustangs were down at half — by 9 points.
But there was no panic.
“We practice like that,” said junior standout Jenny Vliet. “We practice being down.”
And when Vliet hit a corner 3-pointer off a drive and kick from classmate Jackie Kemph, the Mustangs were up — for good.
It gave them a 57-55 lead with 1:41 left and they went on to post a 61-55 victory over previously unbeaten Marian Catholic in the semifinals of the Montini Tournament.
Meadows (16-0) will face host Montini (17-1) for tonight’s 8:15 championship bout in Lombard.
“We were motivated,” said Vliet (9 rebounds, 5 points) of her team’s second-half rally. “We didn’t let ourselves get fazed when we were down.”
Kemph finished with a game-high 27 points (4 3-pointers, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) while classmate Alexis Glasgow added 12 with a pair of 3-pointers.
Junior forward Morgan Keller also reached double figures with 11 points while defensive whiz Allie Kemph collected 3 steals.
“The biggest thing for us is that we hadn’t trailed at half all season,” said Mustangs coach Ryan Kirkorsky. “At the end of every practice, we have a little four-minute scrimmage with the starters down 14-0 or 15-0. We try to simulate those kind of experiences where we are down in a game.”
It paid off Friday when the Mustangs found themselves behind 29-20 at the break.
“We told the kids we need to make adjustments,” said Kirkorsky, whose team’s 20 points were by far their lowest for 16 minutes. “But we stressed there was no reason to panic. We had a whole half of basketball in front of us.
“The biggest thing is that the kids are not scared or overwhelmed by any situation. Our leader this game was Alexis (Glasgow). Her toughness on both ends of the floor led us through.
“Jenny (Vliet) was outstanding all over the floor and we got big contributions from Morgan Keller and Allie Kemph.
The Spartans (13-1) led 29-20 at half and 35-24 midway through the third quarter.
Kemph scored in transition to tie the game at 42-42 with 6:53 left.
She hit a 3-pointer which put Meadows ahead 52-51 with three minutes left.
The game then went back and forth until Vliet finally hit the big 3-pointer off Kemph’s assist.
“I wasn’t hitting all night, but you’ve got to keep shooting,” Vliet said. “Jackie gave me a great pass and I had to shoot it.”
Now the Mustangs will shoot for a second tourney title today.
They’ve already won the Turkey Thriller at Lake Zurich High School.
“Once again, we face an outstanding team,” Kirkorsky said of the Broncos. “They play a different style.
“They have shooters all over the court and a 6-foot-4 girl in the middle. We’ll watch the tape and try to put together a game plan.”
Ÿ Joshua Welge contributed to this report.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.