At 5-foot-3, Wheaton North guard Reilly Stewart doesn’t get many chances to crash the boards.
She got her opportunity Thursday night at the girls Class 4A regional championship against host Elk Grove and made the most of it.
With the No. 3-seeded Falcons clinging to a 1-point lead in the waning moments of overtime, the senior fought her way to the basket to rebound a Grenadiers miss with just 4.7 seconds left.
Her free throw moments later helped give Wheaton North a 60-58 win and its first regional title since 1997. The Falcons advance to meet Schaumburg in Tuesday’s Bartlett sectional semifinal.
“This is huge,” said Stewart. “This was one of our big goals at the beginning of the season, and now we’ve got to carry this momentum over into sectionals.”
Falcons senior guard Mandy Traversa scored a game high 30 points including 5 3-pointers.
Elk Grove senior Diamond Boyd was held scoreless in the first half by a tough Wheaton zone defense, but was spectacular in the second half and overtime with a team-high 17 points and 6 rebounds.
“It hurts,” said Boyd, “especially for the seniors. I just know how we ended last season and how we started this season, and remember how far we’ve come.
“So much of that is due to the approach of coach (Kathie) Swanson. We were basically a brand new team and she brought us together. She really cared for us.”
No. 6 seed Elk Grove (19-11) trailed by as much as 7 points in the fourth quater, but a Boyd layup late in regulation forced overtime.
Wheaton junior Chrissy Baird had 5 of her 17 points in the extra session, and a driving layup by senior Brooke Schanowski gave the Falcons a late 59-58 lead.
After Baird’s shot, Elk Grove brought the ball downcourt and Boyd’s turnaround jumper for the win bounced off the rim and was corralled by Stewart.
“I saw Diamond (with the ball) and I came over to help,” Stewart said. “I just went straight up, boxed out my girl and got the rebound.”
Stewart split one of two free throws at the other end and a final desparation half-court 3-point attempt by Elk Grove senior Kelly Naughton (10 points) at the buzzer was just off the mark.
“When the game went into OT,” said Baird, “I knew we had it. We just had to keep playing defense as hard as we could and pull it together.
“I’m so proud to be a part of this team. Everyone on this team is the best of friends and I’m so happy to win it with them.”
Kelly Thornton added 6 points for the Falcons, while Melissa Solorio and Stephanie Solis each scored 12 for the Grenadiers.
“We pushed as hard as we could,” Boyd said. “We said that we were going to leave our hearts on the court and we did that.
“We couldn’t have accomplished what we did without each other, and I wouldn’t have had the success I had without my teammates. I’m so proud of this team.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.