Second straight OT thriller goes Waubonsie Valley’s way, sends Warriors to state

BLOOMINGTON — It was a party like 1999 at center court of the Class 4A Bloomington supersectional.

The Waubonsie Valley girls basketball team continued its string of determined upsets Monday night with a 55-53 overtime thriller over Alton at Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center.

A modest but vocal throng of students and fans mobbed the victorious Warriors at midcourt after a breathless final few seconds dripped away from the overtime clock to allow Waubonsie Valley to punch its ticket to this weekend’s state semifinals.

“We were 1-13 when I was a freshman,” said senior forward Hannah Laub, whose team also won the sectional championship in overtime over Benet. “We have come such a long way to get to this point.”

The Warriors stretched their school-best season to 32-2 and have reached the state tournament for the first time since 1999. It is the first trip to the state semifinals in school history.

Waubonsie Valley will face Nazareth Academy at 2 p.m. Friday at CEFCU Arena on the campus of Illinois State University.

“We’ve fought through adversity all season,” said Waubonsie Valley coach Brett Love. “I truly believed we were going to pull it out. I’ve never had anything but trust in this team.”

Laub, the only senior contributor for the Warriors, buried a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 53-49 lead with 2:08 to play in overtime for their biggest lead of the game.

That’s when it got even more interesting. Junior forward Jarius Powers, who had a game-high 23 points, got the Redbirds off the deck by scoring in transition to cut the lead to 53-51. After two free throws by Waubonsie Valley’s Danyella Mporokoso made it 55-51, Justice Haynes went coast to coast for a 55-53 game with 21.8 seconds to play.

Alton’s Talia Norman came up with a block on the other end to give the Redbirds one last shot. Alyssa Lewis had a clean look at a 3-pointer from the left wing that was just a tick off. The rebound fell to the floor as the final horn sounded, and the Warriors could breathe again.

And celebrate.

“This group is special,” Love said. “I can’t say that enough. At the end of the regular season, I thought we got instantly better in the way we were practicing and playing.”

Mporokoso led the Warriors with 21 points, with 16 coming in the second half. Her 3-pointer from behind the men’s arc with 5.4 seconds left in regulation forced the overtime.

“I started the game feeling nervous,” Mporokoso said. “Coach and Hannah talked to me at halftime about getting more aggressive, and that was the energy I needed to get into the swing of things.”

Alton (32-3) suffered a big blow when junior guard Kiyoko Proctor went down with a leg injury late in the first quarter, not to return. Freshman Allison Pruitt handled a bulk of the point guard duties the rest of the way.

The Redbirds outrebounded Waubonsie Valley 53-25 but committed 28 turnovers that Waubonsie Valley converted into 23 points.

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