South Elgin makes history with 1st sectional win
South Elgin's 57-48 Class DeKalb 4A sectional semifinal win over Hononegah was a hard fought one, and the Storm's Raina Yang has the bandaged forehead to prove it.
The contest between the two conference champions featured five lead changes and four ties.
The victory, the first girls sectional win in South Elgin's history, advances the Storm to Thursday's championship against Barrington, 53-36 winners over Huntley in the second semifinal.
"We just made history. It's our 27th win, we are 18-0 in (the Upstate Eight) conference and we have never won a sectional game," said South Elgin coach Dan Mandernack. "For all that to happen, we want to get greedy now. If we win the next one, we then play at home - we host the supersectional."
Yang left the court in the first quarter with gashed forehead. Her return in the second quarter ignited a South Elgin (27-5) rally that got it back in the game. Teammate Chloe Kmiec provide the spark in the fourth quarter that finally put the Storm on top for good.
Yang had to leave the court late in the first quarter after an elbow by a Hononegah player opened a cut on her forehead on a scramble for a loose ball under the Indians' basket.
When the junior left the game, South Elgin led 9-2. The Indians then went on a 19-2 run that spanned two quarters. A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Carly Lamay (eight points) put the Rockton school on top, 10-9 at the end of first quarter.
Yang, sporting a large butterfly bandage on her forehead, return to the court with 2:48 to play in the half. South Elgin responded by going on a 15-2 run - six on two of Ella Winterhalder's five 3-pointers - and put the Storm back in front 26-22 at halftime. Winterhalder led all scorers with 15 points.
"The girl came down with her elbow and kind of hit me in the head," Yang said. "I was definitely a little heated, but I shook it off and put it into the game."
"(Yang) is such a catalyst for us," Mandernack said. "She calms down everyone. She gets the offense set up. Her basketball IQ is off the charts."
Trailing 39-36 at the start of the fourth quarter, Kmiec (11 points) tied the game with a 3-pointer from the left wing. The junior's second trey with 6:35 left on the clock put her team ahead 42-41.
Hononegah reeled off three straight baskets to go up 48-44 with four minutes to play. Kmiec responded with her third bucket from beyond arc and then a layup on a steal to put South Elgin back on top 49-48. Caitlyn Tolentino (10 points) followed with another layup for a 51-48 Storm advantage.
"I knew I had to do shooting because that's what I am known for as a player," Kmiec said. "I had to do good with shooting and I tried to follow through the best I could with that."
"She knows she has got the green light (to shoot 3-point shots) and she's got ice water in her veins," Mandernack said of Kmiec.
The Indians were unable to score in the last three minutes and South Elgin connected on six free throws to ice the win.
Breacia Carter scored 12 points for the Indians and teammate Allyson Niefeldt tallied 11,
Hononegah, winners of the Northern Illinois Conference, finish the season with a 30-4 record.