‘Angry’ Libertyville handles Warren for 3rd straight regional title

Seeing Maddy Kopala crumpled on the court changed the Rules and their Libertyville teammates in Thursday night's Grant Class 4A girls basketball regional championship game.

Kopala missed nearly the last seven minutes of the first half after she got smacked in the nose during a battle for a rebound against North Suburban Conference rival Warren. The senior Rule twins of Kate and Rachel got even by scoring 15 points apiece and leading top-seeded Libertvyille (28-5) to its third consecutive regional crown 61-29 at Benedetti Fieldhouse in Fox Lake.

"We all really care about Maddy and that really fired us up," Kate Rule said after she had 6 assists and 4 rebounds and hit two 3-pointers.

"We're such a close team," said Rachel Rule, whose three consecutive 3s off assists from her sister were part of a 23-point run. "Seeing her get hurt put a fire in us."

Beating No. 4 Warren (17-13) for the fourth time this season put the Wildcats into Tuesday's 6 p.m. McHenry sectional semifinal. They'll face third-seed Rockford Guilford (20-12), which got 2 technical foul free throws with 0.2 seconds left to win its own regional 33-32 over No. 2 Huntley.

Six-foot-2 junior Madison Sears (12 points, 8 rebounds) and junior reserve guards Sophia Cesnovar and Elinor Lindal helped Libertyville overcome extended time on the bench in the second quarter by Kopala and freshman Lily Fisher (7 points) with two fouls. Kopala returned to the court to start the second half of the school's 28th regional title.

"Our team got mad and angry," Libertyville coach Greg Pedersen said. "She's the heart and soul of the team with the energy she brings and the passion she plays with. When her teammates saw her injured they rallied around her ... and played with another level of energy."

Which fourth-seeded Warren (17-13) couldn't match after getting within 19-14 when Anjelica Amezquita flipped in a shot over her head and gave a Michael Jordan shrug. Libertyville scored the final 10 points of the half and the first 13 after the break.

"The injury to Kopala, after that we lost something," said Warren coach John Stanczykiewicz, who called Kopala the glue and grout to Libertyville. "They got motivated and they raised the level of their game. We just didn't have the same energy after that and they just jumped on that."

Cesnovar scored 4 points iin the final 3:59 of the half and Lindal picked up for Kopala on defense against 6-foot-2 Warren senior Nari Powers, who was held to 7 of her 15.5-point average on 3-for-8 shooting.

"We fully trusted them tonight and they really pulled through for us," Rachel Rule said.

"Sophia took care of the ball for us and is a really good defender and Elinor plays with tons of energy," Pedersen said. "(Lindal) is like putting in another energizer bunny on both the offensive and defensive end. I'm proud of them and they're always ready to play."

The Rules were ready put away the game in the second half as Libertyville's 46-percent shooting from the field (22-for-48) included 6-for-12 behind the 3-point arc. Rachel Rule went 3-for-5 on 3s and also grabbed 5 rebounds.

"She's Miss Reliable over here," Kate smiled of her sister. "If I pass it to her somethig good is going to happen."

Senior Mariah Phelps added 6 points for Warren, which shot just 30 percent (12-for-40) and saw 15 turnovers converted into 19 Libertyville points.

"Those two guards are just killers," Stanczykiewicz said of the Rules. "They're really good and they've been tested in tough games."

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