Maine South rolls by Elk Grove

Everything worked to near-perfection for Maine South as a 17-0 start helped launch the third-seeded Hawks to a 68-29 Class 4A regional final triumph over sixth-seeded regional host Elk Grove to capture the program's 20th girls basketball regional crown in school history Thursday night.

Maine South (26-6) advances to sectional competition for the 11th time in 15 years and will play in Monday's second semifinal at Maine West where it will face the winner of Friday's Glenbrook North regional title bout between No. 2 Evanston (22-6) and the seventh-seeded hosts (16-13).

The Hawks swept the season series over GBN while dropping both games versus the Wildkits.

"The girls were excited," Maine South coach Jeff Hamann said. "Our system has been to play fast, to pressure, shoot the basketball, and share the basketball. We knew if we played our game we know that we're very tough to beat. Coming into the game that was our message to them."

That success showed itself over the first 4:20 of the contest as South established control by forcing 10 turnovers (20 overall) on the defensive end while getting key contributions on offense from juniors Niki Manolis (7 points) and Nicole Gardiner (5), who scored the last 12 points of the game-opening surge.

After Manolis' second 3-pointer had the Hawks up 20-2 with 2:11 left in the first, sixth-seeded Elk Grove (17-12) attempted a comeback by going on an 11-3 run on the second of senior guard Megan Murray's 3 of the game that brought the Grens within 23-13 with 5:04 remaining in the first half.

The Hawks then responded with a 16-3 tear that all but ended any thoughts of a further comeback by the host school.

Fellow Hawk junior Niamh Gardiner (16 points) connected on 3 of her 4 3-pointers during that span. Overall, they connected on 8 of 13 from beyond the arc in the first 16 minutes of play and 14 of 21 for the game with Manolis hitting five and Niamh's sister Nicole (11 points) connecting on three.

Manolis had a game-high 19 points.

The Grenadiers (17-12) were led by their two MSL all-conference selections as four-year starter Murray had 12 points and junior A.J. Trausch added 8.

For Elk Grove coach Jennifer Buxton, it was time to reflect on the careers of her departing trio of seniors: Murray, center Kaitlyn Ingebrigtsen and guard Sarah Burkhardt.

"We have a lot in terms of the program's development to be happy about," Buxtons said. "They're not going to remember this loss. They're going to remember their impact on the program and the bonds they formed in (their) relationships."

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